Original Research - Special Collection: Practical Theology

‘Selfishly backward’ or ‘selflessly forward?’: A white male’s insider perspective on a challenge and opportunity of decolonisation for practical theology in the South African context

Alfred R. Brunsdon
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 2 | a5558 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i2.5558 | © 2019 Alfred R. Brunsdon | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 May 2019 | Published: 22 November 2019

About the author(s)

Alfred R. Brunsdon, Department of Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


Depending on the Sitz im Leben of practical theologian, the issue of decolonisation will be a greater or lesser reality. For South Africans, decolonisation has become a part of their daily living. Decolonisation can be regarded as a second wave of liberation in the post-apartheid South Africa. Following on the first wave, or even the tsunami of transformation, is the urgent call for the decolonisation of colonial knowledge, structures and epistemologies that endured in the new dispensation. Squarely in the aim of decolonisation efforts are institutions of higher learning and by implication all disciplines taught there, including theology. The non-negotiability of the decolonisation of higher education is evident in the recurring violent protests and mass action, as expressed in different ‘#must-fall’ campaigns over the last few years. This article argues that the current decolonisation drive in South Africa is urging local practical theologians to make an important choice, namely to move ‘selfishly backward’ or ‘selflessly forward’. In other words, maintaining current practices or exploring alternatives in a new context. This choice is embedded in the reality that a significant number of practical theologians in South Africa are white males that may, from a decolonisation perspective, be deemed part of the colonisation legacy. Against this background, the article attempts to provide a reflective insider’s perspective on a challenge and opportunity this creates for practical theology.


Decolonisation; Practical Theology; South Africa; White male; Insider perspective; Ecology of knowledge


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Crossref Citations

1. The Mediation of Coloniality in Decolonisation Developments in South African Theological Education
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Religions  vol: 15  issue: 2  first page: 160  year: 2024  
doi: 10.3390/rel15020160