Christianity, Coloniality, and Social Change

Everyday Ethics of the Two YWCA s of South Africa

In: Religion and Gender

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Abstract

Since 1931, there have been two separate Young Women’s Christian Associations (YWCA s) in South Africa. Each has responded differently to its origins in British coloniality and missionary, evangelical-Protestant Christianity. This article offers a historical, comparative analysis of the YWCA s in South Africa, illustrating their diverging ethical responses to coloniality, racism, and apartheid. Both organisations claimed the ‘YWCA’ identity as their own, and similarly each identified Christian faith and Christian values as the basis and inspiration for their work. Such similarities occasionally led to parallel interventions, as in both organisations’ earlier promotion of domesticity. Notably, however, the YWCA s did not arrive at similar understandings of how they should respond to their socio-political context. The history of the YWCA s in South Africa demonstrates the complex interaction of institutional Christian identity with other personal and collective commitments; race and nation.

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