Original Research

From celebration to utilisation: How linguistic diversity can reduce epistemic inequalities

Marcus Grohmann
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 45, No 1 | a2981 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v45i1.2981 | © 2024 Marcus Grohmann | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 August 2023 | Published: 06 February 2024

About the author(s)

Marcus Grohmann, Jena Centre for Reconciliation Studies, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Jena, Germany; and Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


Working towards reconciliation, the undoing of structural inequalities and segregation often means transforming ‘white spaces’ into less white spaces, including but not restricted to Christian communities. However, it is often overlooked that greater representation of people of colour does not automatically challenge the epistemic authority that tends to rest with white people and/or Eurocentric knowledge systems.

This was the backdrop of a study carried out in a multi-‘racial’ South African congregation. The purpose was to understand how white people conceptualised and worked for reconciliation in a context they were culturally dominating. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used to generate and analyse data through ethnographic methods and relationship-based learning of isiXhosa.

This article presents the problem identified – the ‘coloniality of knowledge’ in ‘reconciling’ Christian communities. To challenge it and to render theologising more relevant in the intercultural contact zone, several concrete suggestions are subsequently made. They are focussed on creating environments favourable to embracing cultural-linguistic differences and to harnessing them for increased gospel relevance and epistemic equality. The value and the cost of such transformation will be discussed in the end with reference to the South African context.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Seeking relationships on the terms of the ‘other’ enables more profound ways of sharing different experiences of the gospel. This approach of decolonising theology can increase cultural and epistemic justice with implications for practical and systematic theology, mission and reconciliation studies, and research in general in cross-cultural settings.


epistemologies; coloniality of knowledge; reconciliation studies; mission studies; multicultural church; REACH SA; decolonising theology; cultural linguistics; linguistic diversity; chosen vulnerability.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 10: Reduced inequalities


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