not particularly concerned here by how others outside of Africa speak of “Africans”), whether biblical or otherwise, the prevailing mode of speaking is to use the generic term “African.” We tend to speak of “African biblical scholarship, ” “the African Renaissance, ” etc. when speaking of ourselves. (I will return to the “ourselves” below.) Even when referring to a particular interpretation of the Bible within a particular locality in Africa, one often finds the writer using the generic “This African reading of 2 Samuel 13…” rather than a more local designation, for example, “This Zulu reading of 2 Samuel 13….”
Clearly we (a problematic “we”) will have to become more careful in our use of the term “African.” The term may be used to signal an important strategic solidarity, and, I think, many African biblical scholars use it in this sense as a way of affirming themselves over against those who have named them. Here the colonial label is being turned into a mark of dignity and identity in solidarity with others who have been so named. However, we will also need to become more explicit about the differences that constitute us as “Africans.” Ethnic designations may be useful, though in South Africa, and elsewhere in Africa, these are also deeply contested and are as much the product of colonial encounters as the term “African.” “Hutu” and “Tutsi” are colonial constructs, as is their more glamorous colonial and apartheid cousin, “Zulu.” A mix of particulars such as race, class, gender, religion, and ethnicity may be a more useful route to take, particularly in South Africa; and here I must declare the ambiguities surrounding my “Africanness.” To what extent I am an “African” biblical scholar is contested terrain, and so sometimes I refer to “we, ” “us, ” and “ours” and sometimes I refer to “they, ” “them, ” and “theirs” (see West 1999a).
The map is not the territory, and so any exercise which attempts to map is fraught with difficulties. My mapping of African biblical interpretation is heuristic (and mine) and must remain contested, as must any map of Africa, even if it is only a sketch. The territory is what matters, and our terrain is rich and diverse. No doubt as we continue to engage with the realities of our territories, much will need to be redrawn.
Adamo, David Tuesday. Africa and the Africans in the Old Testament. San Francisco: Christian University Press, 1998.