CARIBBEAN THEOLOGY IN THE WORLD CHURCH TODAY by Robert Schreiter C.PP.S. [Tenth Annual Conference] Jan.6-10, 2003


It is an honor and privilege for me to be here with you here at this tenth annual conference on Catholic Theology in the Caribbean today.  I still have vivid memories of the first conference held in St. Lucia in 1994.  There was hope in the air that something new might be happening.  Looking back on those efforts some seven years later, Martin Sirju put it well: “Put simply, the conference was born out of a need to restore Caribbean Theology which had gone into abeyance after the 1970s.” After the surge of interest in a contextual theology growing out of the Caribbean experience, prompted especially by the Black Power movements of that period, it seemed as though the prospects for a Caribbean theology had lapsed into slumber. The excitement and interest generated at that first meeting in 1994 has been, it seems to me, sustained despite all the obstacles which have been thrown up along the way.

I have been asked by those involved in the planning for this tenth conference to reflect on what has been done in the course of those conferences, and to situate these efforts at theology in the Caribbean within the theologies in the world church today.  This is a challenge which I gladly take up.  It is in a certain continuity with what I had been asked to do at the 1994 conference as an international observer: to reflect on what had been said and to locate that within the larger theological discussion going on. It also gives me the opportunity to see if I have been hearing accurately what is being said in this part of the world. And it gives us all an opportunity to think about directions within theology worldwide today.

There are, of course, limitations on what the outcome of this challenge can be.  Apart from my own limitations, there is the reality that, beyond the first conference, I have not participated in any of the subsequent conferences.  Thus the responses and discussions around the presentations are only indirectly accessible, through the reflections published by participants. Also, I was not able to get access to all the papers and proceedings of the past conferences themselves, although Cheryl Herrera has done a heroic job of providing me with a good portion of them.  So I apologize in advance if I do not include some of the work done in the conferences in this reflection.

In the informal conversations of which I was part at the first conference, there was a good deal of discussion of the enduring impact of colonialism on the possibility of doing Caribbean theology at all.  Could a Caribbean theology really happen?  And how would it be received in the larger theological community?  In my own way, I tried to counter those feelings of inadequacy which were voiced at that time.  I know of few regions in the world that have such a rich concentration of theological talent.  The context of the Caribbean itself could be seen as a testing ground for the challenges which the world was likely to face in the coming years, as well as a resource for meeting those challenges.  I noted at the time three distinctive contributions Caribbean theology could make to theology in the world church today: (1) the complex form of identity construction which is part of the Caribbean region; (2) the cultural influence exercised by the Caribbean region on the rest of the world through its music and literature; and (3) the region’s experience in the encounter with other religious traditions.

All of these point to areas which have only become more important for understanding the contexts in which theology is done today.  “Hybridity” was still a new word in the theological vocabulary at that time; it and its Caribbean-counterpart’s synonym–”creolization”–have found more acceptance today.  Since 1994, the power of the music coming out of the Caribbean–especially reggae and calypso–has become more recognized for its fundamental influence on the music of the world youth culture today.  Also, since 1994, a second Caribbean native has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  It is hard to think of any comparable region in the world that has produced two laureates in such a short span of time.  And finally, the needs for new patterns of interreligious living together is clearly on the world’s agenda today, even beyond the reach of Roman Catholicism.

All three of these areas have been addressed during the past decade by this annual conference.  The three-part discussion of Caribbean personhood has taken up the first.  Discussions especially of music have been scattered throughout.  And there have been papers on the confrontation and connections among the religions of the region, although this may be the most underrepresented area.

So how does what has been happening in Caribbean theology fit in what is happening worldwide?  There are undoubtedly still colonial twinges of inadequacy clinging to that question.  Let me begin these reflections by reversing the question for a moment: How has the rest of the world been catching up to the Caribbean?  I think that there are at least three areas where this is happening.

The first of these is reflection on migration.  Many of the countries of the Caribbean have more of their citizens living outside the region than on their homeland islands.  The worldwide increase in migration since the 1980s has brought the question of migration front and center in many parts of the world.  In Europe today, it is a hotly debated and contested area. What has made this round of reflection on migration different from earlier ones is the impact of globalization on migration.  The relative ease of travel and the prospect of telephone and internet connection have meant that people do not cut ties with their homelands as was once necessary.  As a result, the meaning of citizenship is changing, that is, how and in how many societies people find themselves participating.  Likewise, there is more reflection on the impact of migration on those countries who send (or lose) citizens to migration.  The Caribbean region has a long experience with these realities, and now the rest of the world is beginning to experience more of the same thing.

Theological reflection on migration lags behind the studies in history and the social sciences which are being done. The experience of migrants themselves, as well as that of those who receive them, and those who are left behind, needs greater attention from a theological perspective.

A second area is mixing in the process of identity formation.  As a result of migration, people find themselves constructing more complex identities, especially in urban centers today.  Nineteenth century racialist ideologies of ethnic and cultural purity still abound, but what is happening among the youngest generation, now coming of age, is a greater acceptance of hybridity or mixing as a positive value. Not only migration, but the postmodern situation experienced in different ways in different parts of the world has encouraged a more constructivist approach to identity–that is, an awareness to what extent identities are constructed rather than received.

Mixture of races and ethnicities has been part and parcel of Caribbean experience.  The mixture, to be sure, has not been a matter of choice, as the postmodern intellectual elite like to portray it.  Coping with mixture in “forced contexts,” to use Gerald Boodoo’s phrase, admittedly adds quite different dynamics to the process.  But much of the mixing that goes on in the world today arises in such forced contexts for migrants and refugees, and for their children.

The third area in which the rest of the world has been catching up with the Caribbean has been in negotiating the experience of discontinuity.  Historical studies of the Caribbean (I think of Rex Nettleford’s contribution some years back) have highlighted the pattern of rupture, invasion, and discontinuity which have marked the region.  From the forced arrival of large numbers of Africans, to the importation of cash crops and the plantation system, to the surrogate European skirmishes between the French and the English in the nineteenth century, there has been a constant jarring and disrupting of Caribbean life by forces from the outside.  The effects of these have been noted by many of the papers presented at these annual conferences.

Discontinuities occur in many different forms in the world today, most of which are out of the control of the people who experience them.  Strategies for responding to them–self-isolation, escape, negotiation–remain a matter of great discussion.  But as a result of this experience, and the experience of postmodernity, seeing discontinuity as the state of affairs rather than aberration has become more accepted, however reluctantly.

Thus, in matters of profound social change in the world today, the Caribbean region and Caribbean experience are more at the center of things today than relegated to the periphery.  This is so because of the history of this region, a history of slavery and colonialism, but especially also because these experiences of movement, mixture, and discontinuity are now part and parcel of the lives of a great deal of the world’s population.

Having said that, I wish to turn now especially to some analysis of your discussions at these annual conferences.  I would like to focus on four areas which have been of significance here, and also hold a great deal of relevance for the world church today.  As I have already mentioned, the vitality of what you are doing here cannot be measured solely against some abstract standards of theology worldwide today.  Your experience and your articulation of it is important in setting those same standards today.

The four areas I wish to look at are: (1) method in theology; (2) culture as a category in contextual theology; (3) violence and the prospects for healing, reconstruction, and reconciliation; and (4) issues around theological anthropology.  There are, of course, other areas which could be considered.  Your courageous venture into the discussion of the spirit world at the second annual conference in 1995, or the importance of ritual (1996), or christology (1997-98) are also worthy of consideration.  But the four I have singled out represent areas where your own thinking has been fertile, and where there is a discussion of these same themes going on in other contexts.  They are areas, therefore, which are particularly ripe for dialogue.

Theological Method

Two methodological commitments have marked the work done in the annual conferences through the years.  The first of these commitments was to begin with experience as the point of departure for doing theology.  A number of motivations lie behind this commitment.  Certainly one was the fact that many of the issues which shape the environment for theology in the Caribbean had not figured into doing theology elsewhere.  The particular combination of a history of slavery, colonialism, and racism did not find a clear parallel in other settings.  A second consideration was to create a genuinely local church in the Caribbean, something only possible if there was a local theology to ground it and to give expression to it.

This is a commitment which has been honored through the years in the theology presented at the annual conferences.  The experiences that formed the point of departure have been expressed in different way.  In some instances they were personal and anecdotal.  In other instances, they were drawn from the history and the events which had occurred in the region.  In a few instances they were based on quantitative and qualitative research.  Even exegetical and historical studies presented had been prompted by questions which had grown out of experiences in the region.

Beginning with experience is clear enough in the work done in these conferences.  The challenge has often been to move into sustained theological reflection after recounting these experiences.  Put another way, a typical problem of beginning theology from the point of experience is that we take a very long run through experience to come to a very short leap into theology.  This is a widespread problem which has not been escaped here either.

The second commitment which has informed the work of these conferences is to speak to both the academic and the pastoral and wider church audiences.  This commitment can lead to some ambivalences in theologial work.  Most notably, the commitment to the academic audience is, in many ways, an “outsider” approach whereby we speak to others about what we have been saying among ourselves.  There is always a subtext of seeking legitimacy involved with this.  To the extent that a Caribbean theology is intended to ground a local church, to that extent it must speak to, and be able to be engaged in, by that local church community.  It is, therefore, much more an “insider” approach.  The respective exigencies of these two audiences can at times be in conflict with each other.

To be sure, there is a sense in which all second-order language (which is what is mainly produced at conferences such as these) is an “outsider” approach, even when pursued by insiders.  The material produced which aims at the academic audience, which has been of good quality, has nonetheless often not reached them because the material has not been consistently produced and distributed outside the region.  It has certainly contributed to building a greater self-confidence among its authors.  The time has now come to see that it comes to the attention of a wider audience.

The more internally directed work which has been done at these conferences has been of good quality as well.  Already at the first conference, Michel de Verteuil proposed a form of lectio divina as a way of bringing the doing of theology into the local communities. This has been an idea which has been returned to over and over again.  Developing theology from folktales and from music has also been brought forward on a number of occasions.

The needs of the two audiences can never be reconciled entirely.  To that end, one must work toward some amount of balance.  It seems to me that this has by and large been present in the work of the conferences.  The consciousness of the two audiences, however, is in itself something salutary.  The need to keep one’s feet on the ground, to use the felicitous phrase of Clodovis Boff, keeps academic theology from floating away.  A reminder that there is a wider community out there beyond our own can help maintain a certain critical stance toward local work.

In his pre-conference paper, Dr. Gerald Boodoo aptly summarized the three principal methodological approaches which have been employed through the years.  The first uses cultural and literary sources as the starting point for theology.  While it grounds theology in the expressive genres of the region, it may never get to actual theological analysis (something already referred to above).  The second concentrates on the struggle for justice, and engages its analysis to reach that end.  This approach not only addresses a central dimension of the Christian message, and allows for connection to theologies of liberation elsewhere, it also addresses concrete experiences of suffering and oppression.  Boodoo also notes that some of the analytic methods have become obsolete as a result of the effects of globalization.  The third looks to history, and especially the history of material relations, as its starting point.  While this may clarify many things, it suffers the same potential shortcoming as the first method, namely, too much analysis and too little theological reflection.  Boodoo notes that these methods are not used in isolation from one another, and that “what is apparent is that we are still searching for an adequate way to go about doing our theology, a theological method.”

From what I have been able to read of your work, I would find myself agreeing with Boodoo’s assessment of the three principal approaches you have taken.  I would further agree with his notes about relative strengths and weaknesses.  His comment about a more “adequate way to go about doing our theology” puzzles me a bit.  It seems to imply, if I understand him correctly, that one adequate way for a distinctive region can be found.  This could lead into essentializing differences (that is, there is a Caribbean way of being which is utterly distinct from all other human ways of being), or reducing the purpose of a local theology to a single project or thing.  To think that there is one way to do theology comes perilously close to Herder’s idea of culture representing the Geist of a distinctive group of people, a view of culture which is increasingly hard to sustain in a globalized world.  It runs the risk of not honoring the diversity within the Caribbean region.

Boodoo’s own thinking is far more sophisticated than that, as anyone who has read his work knows.  But this temptation of finding the one, defining aspect is something omnipresent in local theologies, especially when one of the purposes of a local theology is to help a silenced, subjugated people find its voice.  Searching for the method may be an unintended way of falling into this trap.

So what does that mean for method in Caribbean theology?  I think there is a twofold movement here which may help us chart the road ahead.  On the one hand, we need to be as clear as we can about sources, audiences, and aims or final purposes in our theology.  What are we drawing upon, who are the addressees, and what do we hope to accomplish?  This might be considered the more functional or instrumental side of theology.  It is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for doing theology.  It is essentially a cultivation of the “awareness” to which Bernard Lonergan continually called theologians.  I think that there is a good level of awareness and sophistication on the part of those doing theology in the Caribbean in this regard.

The other side is more deeply rooted in the tradition of Christian faith.  How do we see ourselves, standing before God, the world, and the community of Christian faith?  Where within the rich texture of biblical narratives do we locate ourselves?  By what name does God call us?  Here Boodoo’s reflections on the importance of vocatio are especially apt.  Are Caribbean theologians beginning to articulate together an image of their discipleship, of their following after Christ?  Which threads of biblical and subsequent Christian narrative most reflect the experience of the region?  What are the images from that rich tradition which most deeply move us?  The choice of ecclesiology as the theme of this year’s conference is an opportunity to engage in that work.  It will be the mutual engagement of these two movements–methodological and retrieval of narratives of faith–that will shape whatever a Caribbean theology might become.

Culture as a Category in Theology

The second area I would like to review here briefly is the use of the category “culture” in local theologies.  For theologians in the Caribbean, this is of obvious importance, given how much culture has been a source and a point of departure for your efforts to create a local theology.

I want to focus here on some of the changing ideas about culture and how they affect theology.  On that basis, we can in turn reflect on how culture will be understood in the future.  These changing ideas are fostered by changes in the world which prompt some to  invoke the category of culture to legitimate a variety of political and social actions. Basically, there are three such ideas I want to note here.

The first is the nature of culture itself.  As anyone who has worked with the concept of culture knows, culture is notoriously difficult to define, and it is even more difficult to arrive at any consensus among a group of people about what culture really is or means.  But one discussion, prompted by the experience of multiculturalism and postmodernism, brings a clarifying element.  Concepts of culture can be plotted on a continuum between essentialism, on the one hand, and constructivism, on the other.

Essentialist concepts of culture see a culture as a relative stable, geographically bounded pattern of language, worldview, and practices.  This idea goes back to Herder and the German Romantics, and informed both thinking and practice in cultural anthropology into the 1980s.  In contemporary multicultural discussions, essentialist postures are taken by groups who either are trying to resist other cultural configurations, preserve some kind of “identity” against larger and more powerful groups, or who seek to procure some social or material benefits from the larger society.  There is seen to be a distinctive Geist or essence to culture.  In the strongest forms of essentialism, cultures are considered essentially incommensurable, i.e., no outsider can ever really understand what it means to live inside this culture.

Seyla Benhabib has shown the epistemological untenability of extreme forms of incommensurability or untranslatability. If cultures were so utterly incommensurable, we could not even recognize the existence of another culture.  But groups will argue for essentialist understandings with some form of rigor if they find themselves in a defensive position over against others.

The other end of the spectrum is a constructivist understanding of culture.  This understanding recognizes that, from the inside, a culture is never as coherent and consistent as it is when described to others from the outside.  A great deal more fluidity exists.  Moreover, cultures change over time and in reaction to new experiences.  An extreme constructivist might take a relativist point of view regarding culture: nothing is stable or long-lasting.  Again, this position is not epistemologically untenable, because then the various moments in history of a culture, or the experiences of different members of the culture would become unintelligible.  It is also psychologically untenable: the results of such a constructivist view would provide no means of identity for a person.  There would be neither continuity nor coherence over time.

Constructivist views are particularly attractive to those who live in multicultural situations where cultures are influencing each other, and are therefore undergoing rapid change.  They are also attractive for postmodern thinking, which sees culture as essentially a field of contestation where identities are being negotiated.  In its extreme liberal form, it portrays people consciously constructing their identities out of a range of possible choices.

Essentialist and constructivist views can be considered as two ends of a spectrum.  Local theologies often begin veering more toward the essentialist view, because of a need to articulate some kind of common identity.  As they deal with change and interaction with other cultures, the constructivist pole becomes more attractive.  Politically, the essentialist pole is important for developing group coherence and solidarity.  The constructivist pole helps cultures negotiate change–change which they may choose, or change thrust upon them.

How has Caribbean theology moved between essentialism and constructivism?  I do not believe, from what I have experienced and been able to read, that it has been in a single place.  There is a strong need for identity, but also a respecting of the complexity and diversity of the region.  When the concept of culture is wielded in our discussions, it may be useful to see where we are locating ourselves on this spectrum today, and why.

A second, related development in recent discussion of culture has to do with the impact of globalization on our understanding of culture.  Globalization has the paradoxical impact of at once homogenizing particular cultures through a global hyper- or superculture (spread through music, the media, and objects of consumption), thus absorbing or destroying local culture; and provoking resistance in local cultures, which has made them more vibrant and resilient.  “Culture” has been the rallying cry since 1989 for ethnic groups to secede from existent nation-states in order to create their own, more ethnically homogeneous political units.  In accelerating migration, globalization has been a causal factor in cultural mixing in cities and even some rural areas around the world.  All in all, globalization has brought a great deal of turbulence and flux into the concept of culture.

We are still coming to grips with what globalization means for cultural and the local.  Here the reflections from theology in the Caribbean can be of great help.  Jason Gordon’s excellent study on globalization makes the very legitimate point, now widely held among students of globalization, that the globalizing process did not begin in the 1980s. The term globalization refers, at least in a material sense, to advances in transportation and communication that make a more dense pattern of relationships possible over greater distances.  Improvements on the sailing ship in the fourteenth and fifteen centuries changed the nature of sea travel. This fact made possible the emergence of European empire.  Steam-powered ships and telecommunications (the telegraph and telephone) in the nineteenth century created another leap in globalization.  This latter one came to almost a complete halt in 1914, when the colonial powers went to war.  What we have experienced since the 1980s is essentially a continuation of that second wave of globalization, accelerated by cheap international travel and electronic communication.

Gordon’s point, and that also of others, is that the Caribbean reality itself is a product of these earlier globalizations.  The slave trade, plantation economies, geopolitical clashes played out among the island communities by European powers shaped Caribbean culture. To that one could add that global tourism and neoliberal capitalism are the major ingredients added in the most current wave of globalization.

The interesting point to be made here is that the Caribbean region may have the longest experience of perhaps any region in the world of the effects of globalization as they are thrust upon a people.  Much of the discontinuity and disruption talked about in Caribbean theology is a result of this experience.  At the same time, Caribbean peoples are not passive objects in all of this.  They have made major contributions to global culture in literature and music (and to that creation of globalization, international sports).

A deeper reflection on the historical experience of Caribbean peoples can be of benefit to the larger world, then, in the face of globalization.  For this to happen, the kind of awareness of the larger discussion regarding both the positive and the negative aspects of globalization shown in Gordon’s paper will be necessary.

The third and final thing to be said about culture arises from the work of Nancy Fraser looking at patterns of multicultural relations. She notes that many of the efforts of local cultures to assert themselves gather around two foci: recognition and redistribution.  Recognition is a concept which Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has brought into multicultural discussion. Recognition refers to the regard in which we are held by others.  Minority groups are often reduced to invisibility by dominant cultures, or held to be inferior in one or another way.  Recognition is the according of status and dignity to a group.

Redistribution refers to the concept of justice invoked to change the status of those who are now recognized.  It seeks to undo the harm of the past by reallocating resources to those who have been disadvantaged, be those resources material, social, or political.  Much of the understanding of justice developed in theologies of liberation have been redistributive in nature.

Fraser’s identification of these two foci can help us sort the aims or purposes of local theology in another way.  The two foci correspond roughly to the first two forms of theology Boodoo described in his paper–ethnographic description and a commitment to liberation and justice–and help guide us into thinking how we relate the two.  Liberation theologies in Latin America have been discovering the cultural dimension (at least of indigenous peoples) since the mid-1980s.  Contextual theologies in Africa have been developing stronger interests in liberation issues.  The issues raised by feminist thought in the Caribbean, for example, entail concerns of both recognition and redistribution.

However, one plots current issues in Caribbean theology on these maps of cultural theorizing, it is important to realize that culture, a central category for Caribbean theology, is itself a dynamic and changing concept.  In order to be faithful to the realities in the region itself, as well as to be engaged in the larger theological dialogue, it is important to continue to attend to how even our categories are fluid and dynamic.

Violence, Healing, Reconstruction, and Reconciliation

Violence in relation to religion, and dealing with postconflict situations have become major preoccupations in much of the world today.  The use of religion to foment violence has raised a host of questions about the nature of religion itself.  Dealing with the consequences of violence in rebuilding strife-torn societies has also become a preoccupation of many.  Within that latter area, dominated by those skilled in conflict resolution and development policies, there has been a growing interest in the contribution of religion not just to violence, but also to peacemaking and the reconstruction of society.

The 2001 conference was devoted to the challenge of violence in Caribbean society.  It attempted to locate the kinds of violence perpetrated in society and, to a lesser extent, the origins of that violence.  Violence in the region has not been of the terrorist varieties found elsewhere in the world, nor has it been of religious provenance.  But the violence is nevertheless real, in domestic abuse, in crime, and in the results of drug cultures.

A root a number of authors have pointed to in this regard is the history of slavery and colonialism, and the degree of self-hatred it engenders in people.  How this self-hatred is part of the socialization process in families and in schools was also a matter of discussion.

There were, in those papers, calls for healing and reconciliation.

A significant literature has been growing about societal healing and reconciliation, in the face of racism and colonialism, but also forms of violence in society.  I did not find much evidence that this literature has been taken into account thus far in your discussions in the region.  It seems to me that the Caribbean region has something to contribute to the rest of the world in naming and narrating its experience of violence.  It might profit in return from the discussions of healing of memory, forgiveness, and reconciliation are taking shape around the world.  Similarly, studies of how victims become perpetrators are relevant to your discussion here.  Certain countries in the Caribbean region have experienced political violence in a manner like elsewhere in the world (one thinks of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the U.S. invasion of Grenada).  But for much of the region, the violence in domestic settings and in the streets would be the center of concern.  Here is an area of theology to which the Caribbean can both contribute and from which it can learn.

Theological Anthropology

Three of the annual conferences (1999-2002) were devoted to Caribbean Personhood.  This has been rightly identified as a major theme in developing a Caribbean theology.  The many ways in which persons in the Caribbean region have been broken by the history of slavery, indentured labor, colonialism, and now globalization; the analysis of the suffering and the self-hatred which have arisen out of those experiences; the ways in which these patterns are perpetuated in society by the victims themselves; and the prospects for redress, healing, and liberation have all been taken up in your work.  The collective picture which emerges from this can be of benefit to others elsewhere, as I have already noted.  Each of these experiences can be explored further.  Slaving is still going on the world.  Globalization is generating new racisms. And the patterns of self-hatred, referred to so frequently, can be explored even further.

I would like to suggest three areas where development in theological anthropology could go further.  The first is in a feminist theology.  Ethna Regan and Don Chamber’s  paper made a good beginning at this. Particularly seeing through issues of the relation of gender equality to patriarchal patterns in culture, and the assertion that feminism is an agenda item from elsewhere are important here.

The second is an investigation of patterns of solidarity.  Boodoo makes reference to this in his pre-conference paper.  In the study of multicultural societies today, there is an increasing interest in the issue of social cohesion.  Recognition, as we have seen, ascribes status to those who had not been recognized.  But what brings people together?  What creates a sense of participation or citizenship?  This needs to be looked at not only socially, but theologically.  What comes to constitute a solidarity of others, rather than simply a solidarity with others, to use Anselm Minh’s phrase?  People throughout the Caribbean have been made, through their history, to be “other.” How can they find new forms of social cohesion and solidarity?  Solidarity with others implies some neutral point where one can stand.  Solidarity of others implicates us all.

The third and final point regarding theological anthropology is a suggestion raised by at least three of the authors who have contributed to these conferences: Gerald Boodoo, Joseph Harris, and Malcom Rodrigues: the importance of grace.  My own work in the field of reconciliation has taught me the importance of grace.  That which we need to overcome, the imagination needed to imagine something really different, the capacity to overcome histories of suffering, resentment, and self-hatred: all of this reaches beyond our human capacity, individually or socially.  It is the experience of grace that gives us in those seemingly impossible moments one of the most acute experiences of God open to us.  Given the analysis which has taken place on so many fronts of brokenness and suffering, an articulation of a Caribbean theology of grace would be a powerful contribution to theology in the world church today.  It would be powerful in the sense that it would explore divine power as it faces the misuse of human power and the asymmetries in relationships which so mark the region–both among peoples and with those outside.  It would be powerful in the sense that it would be empowering and life-giving to so many other peoples who have similar experiences, in some measure, to those of the peoples of the Caribbean.


A brief word of conclusion.  I have attempted here to look at some of your work over this past decade: some of it, certainly not all of it.  I want to end with the affirmations with which I began.  What this annual conference does is significant not only for the Caribbean region, but for the world church as a whole.  It needs to become better known, but that is largely a technical matter.  It has built a foundation upon which now a theological space can be constructed where Caribbean Catholics (and the wider Christian community, for that matter) can hear the call, the vocatio, which God is extending.  It is a theological space where elements of our tradition can find a special resonance.  It is a place where new forms of solidarity and communion can be found. I salute here the vision of those “father figures”–Patrick Anthony, Joseph Harris, and Michel de Verteuil–who helped revive theology in the Caribbean. And I wish you all well in the second decade of your endeavors.

Martin Sirju, “Catholic Theology in the Caribbean,” in Caribbean Personhood II — The Challenge of Violence (Catholic Theology in the Caribbean Today 8), 4.

Robert Schreiter, “Why a Caribbean Theology?” Perspectives (Theology in the Caribbean Today 1), 121-126.

Specifically, I had access to volumes 1, 2, and 8 of the Proceedings, plus ten other papers from various conferences, and the background paper prepared for this conference by Dr. Gerald Boodoo.  The individual papers I refer to here from the manuscript form in which they were sent to me.

To look at just one recent example, see the research report edited by Jan Lucassen and Arie de Ruijter, Nederland: multicultureel en pluriform? Een aantal conceptuele studies (Amsterdam: Aksant, 2002).

On the social science side, see especially Stephen Castles, Ethnicity and Globalization: From Migrant Worker to Transnational Citizen (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000); Stephen Castles and Alistair Davidson (eds.), Citizenship and Migration: Globalization and the Politics of Belonging (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000); Nikos Papastergiadis, The Turbulence of Migration: Globalization, Deterritorialization, and Hybridity (Cambridge: Polity, 2000).  On the religious side, see the proceedings of a conference held during the 2000 Jubilee Year, Migration at the Threshold of the New Millennium (Rome: Pontifical Council for Migrants and Refugees, 2000); Paulo Suess, “Migração, peregrinação, e caminhada comes desafios no mondo globalizado,” Revista Eclesiástica Brasileira fasc. 238 (Junho, 2000) 294-311.

”The Caribbean’s Creative Diversity: The Defining Point of the Region’s History.”

Most prominent here is Patrick A.B. Anthony’s study, which appeared in Thomas Bamat and Jean-Paul Wiest (eds.), Popular Catholicism in a World Church (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999), 87-118.

”A Theological Method for the Caribbean Today,” Perspectives, op. cit., 31-38.

Peter Sjak-shie, “Trickster Love: the Challenge of Anansi.” Martin Schade, “The Caribbean person of Sng and Dance in a Theology of Culture: Riddim of Creation.”

Boodoo, op. cit., 3.

Boodoo, op. cit., 4.

A good recent study on this is Seyla Benhabib, The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).

Ibid., 30-33.

Martin Sirju, op. cit., 7, reports Andayie articulating this point of view in terms of feminist strategies in the discussion of her paper “Engendering the Web of Violence.”

Jason Gordon, “Globalization and Caribbean Personhood.”

Nancy Fraser, Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the “Postsocialist” Condition (New York: Routledge, 1997).

Charles Taylor, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Recognition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).

See the critique of this concept of justice in Daniel Bell, “Sacrifice and Suffering: Beyond Justice, Human Rights, and Capitalism,” Modern Theology 18(2002)333-360.

See for example, Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996); Robert Schreiter, Reconciliation: Mission and Ministry in a Changing Social Order (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992); idem, TheMinistry of Reconciliation: Spirituality and Strategies (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1998); George Frederickson, A Short History of Racism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002); Antonius Robben and Marcelo Suárez-Orozco (eds.), Cultures under Siege: Collective Violence and Trauma (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Robert Enright and Joanna North (eds.), Exploring Forgiveness (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998); Flora Keshgegian, Redeeming Memories: A Theology of Healing and Transformation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2000).

See Castles, op. cit., “The Racisms of Globalization,” 163-186.

Ethna Regan and Don Chambers, “Gender Issues in the Caribbean: A Theological Response.”

Helpful in this regard is Benhabib, op. cit., chapter 4: “Multiculturalism and Gender Citizenship,” 82-104.

Anselm Minh, “Dialectical Pluralism and the Solidarity of Others,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 65(1997)587-604; “Solidarity of Others in the Body of Christ,” Toronto Journal of Theology 12(1998)239-254.

Boodoo, op. cit.; Joseph Harris, “Foundations for Pastoral Leadership and Non-Violence,” volume 8 of the Proceedings, op. cit., 93-105; Malcom Rodrigues, “Violence, Theology, and the Caribbean Person,” ibid., 22-27.


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