Sunday, August 28, 2011

toward relationships of mutuality...

My weekend has been dominated by these pesky muscle spasms in my back and ribs...

But the lack of ability to do my long weekend run, or to help with the household chores my super-Dad husband has taken over- has given me more time to do the reading I need to do for class.

Honestly, all of the reading I've been doing has been incredible- but my favorite book is Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology by Kwok Pui-lan.

These postcolonial concepts have surely shaped my lens and have defined the concepts I see as vital for development of healthy relationships- personally, and on a political and international scale.

What does postcolonial mean you ask?
Glad you asked!

The term postcolonial refers to the effort to bring to light the residual effects of colonialism (the colonizing by Europe and the US of most of the world that was undertaken during the 19th and 20th centuries, and continues in many ways today...).

The postcolonial effort is concerned with more than simply salvaging past worlds, but rather explores how the world can move past 'colonization' together to find a place of mutual respect. Central aspects of colonialism that are explored are issues of power, dominance, exploitation, economic imbalance, and devaluation of non-western (a troubling term in and of itself) knowledge and culture.

Basically, postcolonial theory challenges the presumed dominance and superiority of western knowledge and culture, and the continued influence of western culture through power and exploitation.

Central to the postcolonial project is the effort to create space for the voices and knowledge of marginalized groups.

(I know this sounds deep- but keep reading!!)


While reading these theories I can't help but think of my friend Beth who is leaving today to spend two weeks with a group of Disciples of Christ women in the DR Congo- where she will be learning from, and sharing with the women of the Congo. The DR Congo shows a clear example of the lasting effects of colonization. (info in the DR Congo)

In her preparation for this trip we have had many conversations about the complex issues faced in the Congo- there is a horrific humanitarian crisis- nearly six million people have died in the Congo since 1996, half of them children under five. Women are regularly raped as a weapon of war- hundreds of thousands in the past twenty years. All of this is fueled by a civil war over the procurement of coltan (a mineral used in our cell phones and computers.) The people experience extreme poverty and hunger, and are ravaged by HIV/AIDS.

There are real lived needs in the lives of the Congolese people.

In the midst of this horrific situation there is also incredible life and wisdom.

The people of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the DR Congo are doing transformative work in the midst of dire circumstances (though the church was founded in a time of classical colonial missionizing). They operate a hospital which treats 16,000 patients annually by an all-Congolese medical staff, they support grass roots projects to provide education for girls, improved communication infrastructure, micro-loan and microcredit programs, programs for widows and survivors of rape, as well as for construction of wells and latrines.

Most notably, the people of DR Congo find life, beauty and community in the midst of horrific situations.

There is a lot we can learn from the people of the DR Congo.

All of this leads me to ask-
In our postcolonial world, how can we address real needs from a place of mutual learning and sharing?

How can we move past a charity or (more horrifically) a 'missionizing' mindset to develop relationships of mutuality?

How does this connect to my daily life and relationships?

As I write my husband has done the laundry, folded each sock and little pair of shorts- has put clean clothes in the kids rooms, herded the kids through their morning routine to get ready for church, and now has done all of our breakfast dishes.

In a time not so long ago, this would have been work that was 'below' the 'man of the house'. In the past their was a clear hierarchy of order in marital relationships. Value was placed on the masculine role of heading off to work, while the role of women as caretaker for the home and the children was devalued.

A huge gift for my generation of women has been a shift to mutuality in the marriage relationship. This hasn't been, nor is it an easy process. It takes time. We are constantly seeking balance in time, money, appreciation. We each have something to give, and we each have needs.

But central to the give and take of this relationship is a foundational respect and value for the other as a fully equal human being with something to give.


Perhaps this is a first step to developing relationships of mutuality is a postcolonial world....

I don't know. What do you think?

(image from Global Ministries)

For more on Gobal Ministries work of building relationships of mutuality in the DR Congo check out:

For a quick introduction to postcolonial theory check out:

For a deeper look, and to meet one of my favorite theologians, check out:

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