Hinweise zum Einsatz der Google Suche
Personensuchezur unisono Personensuche
Veranstaltungssuchezur unisono Veranstaltungssuche
Katalog plus
/ phil / isert24 / call /

Empirical Theology and Postcolonial Theory

Call for Papers

Postcolonial Theory is de- and re-constructing the historical, social, cultural, economic, psychological etc. impact of the European colonial past on both, the formerly colonialized peoples, nations and societies and the formerly colonizing peoples, nations and societies (Hook, 2012; Loomba; Williams & Chrisman, 2015; Young, 2020). Its basic hermeneutical point of view is the assumption that during the imperial period European worldview has been imposed on the colonies establishing a system of European supremacy. Although the era of imperialism has ended meanwhile the imperial mindset is still effective. For example, the recent sociological concepts of “modernity” are representing the situation and worldviews of the Global North and neglecting the conditions of the Global South (Mannathukkaren, 2010).

Unearthing colonial thinking, Political Theory has taken multiple forms: it has been concerned with forms of political and aesthetic representation; it has been committed to accounting for globalization and global modernity and it has been interested in discovering and theorizing new forms of human injustice, from environmentalism to human rights. The aim of Postcolonial Theory is to identify the lasting effects of the imperial era, to de-construct the processes of colonial othering, to unearth the suppressed local traditions and voices and to recognize them (Taylor, 1994). In consequence, Postcolonial Theory is both, a normative account and an analytical toolbox.

Postcolonial Theory has been taken up in both theology and religious studies. Theological accounts analyze the relevance of colonialism in the Christian tradition, interpretation of the Bible and Christology (Abraham, 2015; Daggers, 2013; Hong, 2022; Nehring & Wiesgickl, 2013, 2017). For in the imperial age, theology served, among other things, to legitimize conquest, subjugation and exploitation by declaring these to be an inevitable concomitant of Christianization or even its unavoidable precondition. Conversely, Eurocentric and racist thinking also found its way into many theological disciplines and continues to shape them today.

Postcolonial approaches in theology critique habitual interpretations of biblical texts and traditional statements of faith, they point to historical injustices legitimized by colonial theologies and to contemporary injustices and hegemonies that have their roots in colonial theology. They show that theological coloniality entails implications in areas as diverse as gender relations, land tenure, racism, development assistance, church historiography, and interreligious dialogue. In consequence, particularly theologians from Africa, Asia, and Latin-America started to bring in their indigenous perspectives to theological reflection (Dube Shomanah, 2000; Gruchy, 1994; Kwan, 2014; Lartey, 2013; Lartey & Moon, 2020; Sugirtharajah, 2006). They promote a spiritual understanding of live, a communal concept of land and property, or ecologies of participation with the goal of “decentering the world and church” (Hong, 2022, p. 205). Meanwhile, the concept of Postcolonial Theology is well established within the theological discourse.

In religious studies, Postcolonial Theory is used to question the impact of orientalism, racism and white supremacy on key categories such as ‘religion’ and ‘the sacred (Bergunder, 2014; Bloch, 2010; Goulet, 2011; Ibhakewanlan, 2021; Sarma, 2016; Yountae, 2020). For example, the concepts to measure religion predominantly represent a Western (and Protestant) account towards the phenomenon, not being sensitive to Asian, African or Latin-American forms of believing (Demmrich & Riegel, 2020). In general, postcolonial theory can broaden the scope of understanding the impact of imperialism on religion and can contribute to the analysis of the ways in which devotees practice and respond to imperial rule (Morny, 2001; van Klinken, 2020). It stimulates religious studies to change the perspective from Eurocentrism to indigenous accounts, to apply relational methodologies, and to accept a political and biased perspective rather than a neutral one (Bain-Selbo, 1999; Sarma, 2016; Tayob, 2018; Yang, 2011).

Sometimes, the concept of Postcolonial Theory is distinguished from the concept of Decolonization. While the first is referring to the academic discourse, the latter is more about the processes of creating indigenous sovereignty in the formerly colonialized countries and societies (Betts, 2012). Decolonization has been referred to in both theology (c. f. Foley, 2021) and religious studies (c. f. Borup, 2021).

Unlike Postcolonial Theory and its applications in theology and religious studies, Empirical Theology offers a rather descriptive account to religious practice. In its principle, Empirical Theology is concerned with elucidating theory about religious practice through empirical data about people's faith and religious practices (van der Ven, 1990; Ziebertz, 2004). Guided by the methodology of social sciences, Empirical Theology analyzes the way how people believe and how they express this believe. Normative accounts to religious practice form the frame of reference in which Empirical Theology takes place, but hardly form its methodology themselves (Hermans & Moore, 2004; van der Ven, 2004). Given this interplay of a normative frame of reference and a descriptive methodology, first empirical theological studies within the paradigm of Postcolonial Theory have been published (Capucao, 2010; Sakwa, 2008; Unser, 2019). They are able to shed light into the effects of colonialism on the belief systems of both individuals and congregations. They are also able to reconstruct indigenous accounts to God, life and world. From a postcolonial point of view, however, the question raises whether also the methodology of Empirical Theology has to meet the normative standards of postcolonial thinking (Ibhakewanlan, 2021; Jones, 2021; Mercer, 2006; Miller-McLemore & Mercer, 2016).

What kind of analytical tools are needed when analyzing social inequality, injustice und discrimination? Shouldn’t Empirical Theology take the perspective of the discriminated, subdued and marginalized while reconstructing their stories? Is it necessary to strengthen sympathetic methodologies like participatory observation or ethnography within Empirical Theology (Kaufmann, 2022)? And if yes, what would this shift towards relational methodologies mean to the understanding of empirical research (Kaufmann, 2016)? And what would be the impact of such shifts to religious education and pastoral care (Dreyer, 2017; Kaunda & Kim, 2022; Rich et al., 2022)?
The ISERT conference 2024 is concerned with questions as previously sketched. It analyzes the interplay of Empirical Theology and Postcolonial Theory or Decolonization respectively on various levels:

  • On the level of philosophy of science, the question raises of what Empirical Theology is able to learn from Postcolonial Theory. Are there colonial structures within the research agenda of Empirical Theology in terms of research agenda, scholarly networks, etc.? Is Empirical Theology ready to take up the concerns of Postcolonial Theory – for example regarding its epistemology or its theory of knowledge –, and if yes, to what extent?
  • On theoretical level, the question raises of the conceptual locus of Postcolonial Theory within Empirical Theology. Does it coin the frame of reference in which empirical studies can take place? Does it fill the research agenda of Empirical Theology with possible topics? Does it provide theories that can be used to interpret the findings of empirical projects? Does it change the rather descriptive account of Empirical Theology towards a more normative one?
  • On methodological level, the question raises of how Postcolonial Theory can contribute to develop the methods used within Empirical Theology. How do established methodologies meet the requirements of Postcolonial Theory? Is there a need to take up new methodologies and methods which fit into the frame of Postcolonial Theory? And if yes, what would be the effect of this need on the understanding of Empirical Theology?
  • On content level, the question raises of what findings Empirical Theology can provide in the context of the agenda of Postcolonial Theory. Which colonial structures are still effective in the belief of both individuals and congregations in various national and social contexts? Which are the native accounts to God, life and world within various national and social contexts?

The ISERT conference 2024 invites scholars from relevant disciplines to reflect upon theses questions. It looks forward to create an inter-disciplinary forum of colleagues from theology as well as from cultural studies, social sciences, psychology, and religious studies. Interested colleagues are asked to submit the talk’s title and an abstract of up to 500 words (excluding references).


  • Abraham, S. (2015). Postcolonial Theology. In C. Hovey & E. Phillips (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Christian Political Theology (pp. 133–154). Cambridge University Press.
  • Bain-Selbo, E. (1999). Understanding the Other: the challenge of post-colonial theory to the comparative study of religion. Religious Studies and Theology, 18(1), 60–108.
  • Bergunder, M. (2014). What is Religion? Method Theory Study Religion;, 26(3), 246–286.
  • Betts, R. (2012). Decolonization: A brief history of the word. In E. Bogaerts (Ed.), Beyond empire and nation: The decolonization of African and Asian societies, 1930s - 1960s (pp. 23–38). KITLV Press.
  • Bloch, E. (Ed.). (2010). Routledge South Asian religion series: Vol. 4. Rethinking religion in India: The colonial construction of Hinduism. Routledge.
  • Borup, J. (2021). Identity Turn: Managing Decolonialization and Identity Politics in the Study of Religion. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion, 34(1-2), 162–181.
  • Capucao, D. D. (2010). Religion and ethnocentrism: An empirical-theological study. Brill.
  • Daggers, J. (2013). Postcolonial Theology of Religions: Particularity and Pluralism in World Christianity. Taylor and Francis.
  • Demmrich, S., & Riegel, U. (Eds.). (2020). Journal of Empirical Theology 33. The Cultural Bias of Religiosity: Concepts, Measurements, and Results from Non-Western Perspectives.
  • Dreyer, J. S. (2017). Practical theology and the call for the decolonisation of higher education in South Africa: Reflections and proposals. HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, 73(4).
  • Dube Shomanah, M. W. (2000). Postcolonial feminist interpretation of the Bible. Chalice Press.
  • Foley, E. (2021). Liturgical Inculturation: Decolonization or Decolonialization? Examining Misa ng Bayang Pilipino. The Asia Journal of Theology, 35(1), 83–99.
  • Goulet, N. (2011). Postcolonialism and the Study of Religion: Dissecting Orientalism, Nationalism, and Gender Using Postcolonial Theory. Religion Compass, 5(10), 631–637.
  • Gruchy, J. W. de (Ed.). (1994). Doing theology in context: South African perspectives. Orbis Books.
  • Hermans, C., & Moore, M. (Eds.). (2004). Hermeneutics and Empirical Research in Practical Theology. Brill.
  • Hong, C. (2022). Postcolonial Theology: Naming Coloniality and the Problem of Definitions. In K. Tveitereid (Ed.), Wiley Blackwell Companion to Theology and Qualitative Research (pp. 195–206). John Wiley & Sons Incorporated.
  • Hook, D. (2012). A Critical Psychology of the Postcolonial. Routledge.
  • Ibhakewanlan, J.‑O. (2021). Seeking an African Community Approach to Theological Research. Interreligious Studies and Intercultural Theology, 5(1-2), 164–171.
  • Jones, A. L. (2021). Towards a Just Worship: A Black Practitioner’s Methodology for Decolonizing Worship. The Hymn, 72(2), 15–19.
  • Kaufmann, T. (2016). From the Outside, Within, or In Between? Normativity at Work in Empirical Practical Theological Research. Conundrums in Practical Theology, 134–162.
  • Kaufmann, T. (2022). Practicing reflexivity: Becoming aware of one’s default mode and developing an epistemic advantage. In K. Tveitereid (Ed.), Wiley Blackwell Companion to Theology and Qualitative Research (pp. 111–120). John Wiley & Sons.
  • Kaunda, C. J., & Kim, S. (2022). ‘Samae Spirit’ Assist toward ‘Ubuntu Spirit’ Model for Rural Adult Christian Education in Zambia. Religious Education, 117(1), 33–49.
  • Kwan, S. S.‑M. (2014). Postcolonial resistance and Asian theology. Routledge.
  • Lartey, E. (2013). Postcolonializing God: An African Practical Theology. SCM Press.
  • Lartey, E. Y., & Moon, H. (Eds.). (2020). Postcolonial Images of Spiritual Care: Challenges of Care in a Neoliberal Age. Pickwick & Stock.
  • Loomba, A. Colonialism/Postcolonialism (2nd ed.). The New Critical Idiom: v.3. https://permalink.obvsg.at/
  • Mannathukkaren, N. (2010). Postcolonialism and Modernity. Journal of Critical Realism, 9(3), 299–327.
  • Mercer, J. A. (2006). A Madness to Our Method: Congregational Studies as a Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Contextualizing Teaching and Learning in Theological Education. Teaching Theology and Religion, 9(3), 148–155.
  • Miller-McLemore, B. J., & Mercer, J. A. (Eds.). (2016). Conundrums in practical theology. Brill.
  • Morny, J. (2001). Postcolonial reflections: challenges for religious studies. Method & Theory in the Study of Religion;, 12(2), 177–195.
  • Nehring, A., & Wiesgickl, S. (Eds.). (2013). Postkoloniale Theologien: Bibelhermeneutische und kulturwissenschaftliche Beiträge. Verlag W. Kohlhammer.
  • Nehring, A., & Wiesgickl, S. (2017). Postkoloniale Theologien II: Perspektiven aus dem deutschsprachigen Raum. Kohlhammer Verlag.
  • Rich, C. H., Ward Holder, R., & Scheopner Torres, A. (2022). Teaching Race, Colonialism, and Theology in a Joint Project in North America and Africa: Insights from the Project. Religious Education, 117(4), 324–338.
  • Sakwa, M. M. (2008). Bible and poverty in Kenya: An empirical exploration. Brill.
  • Sarma, D. (2016). Postcolonial Religion: Religion and Its Study after Colonialism. In J. J. Kripal (Ed.), Religion (pp. 195–212). Macmillan.
  • Sugirtharajah, R. S. (Ed.). (2006). The postcolonial Biblical reader. Blackwell Pub.
  • Taylor, C. (1994). Multiculturalism: Examining the politics of recognition. Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Tayob, A. (2018). Decolonizing the Study of Religions: Muslim Intellectuals and the Enlightenment Project of Religious Studies. Journal for the Study of Religion, 31(2), 7–35.
  • Unser, A. (2019). Social inequality and interreligious learning: An empirical analysis of students’ agency to cope with interreligious learning tasks. Empirische Theologie. Lit.
  • van der Ven, J. A. (1990). Entwurf einer empirischen Theologie (Dr. nach Typoskript). Theologie & Empirie: Vol. 10. Kok.
  • van der Ven, J. A. (2004). Normativity and Empirical Research in Theology. Brill.
  • van Klinken, A. (2020). Studying religion in the pluriversity: decolonial perspectives. Religion, 50(1), 148–155.
  • Williams, P., & Chrisman, L. (2015). Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory. Routledge.
  • Yang, M. M. (2011). Postcoloniality and Religiosity in Modern China. Theory, Culture & Society, 28(2), 3–44.
  • Young, R. J. C. (2020). Postcolonialism: A very short introduction (Second edition). Very short introductions: Vol. 98. Oxford University Press.
  • an Yountae (2020). A Decolonial Theory of Religion: Race, Coloniality, and Secularity in the Americas. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 88(4), 947–980.
  • Ziebertz, H.‑G. (2004). Religionspädagogik und Empirische Methodologie. In F. Schweitzer & T. Schlag (Eds.), Religionspädagogik im 21. Jahrhundert (pp. 209–222). Chr. Kaiser Gütersloher Verlagshaus.



Hinweise zum Einsatz der Google Suche