Faith and Freedom in Galatia and Senegal

The Apostle Paul, Colonists and Sending Gods

Series:

Faith and Freedom in Galatia and Senegal reads Galatians 2:11-15 and 3:26-29 through the lens of the 19th-20th century experiences of French colonialism by the Diola people in Senegal, West Africa, and portrays the Apostle Paul as a "'sociopostcolonial hermeneut who acted on his self-understanding as God’s messenger to create, through faith in the cross of Christ, free communities' -- a self-definition that is critical of ancient Graeco-Roman and modern colonial lore that justify colonization as a divine mandate." Aliou C. Niang ingeniously compares the colonial objectification of his own people by French colonists to the Graeco-Roman colonial objectifications of the ancient Celts/Gauls/Galatians, and Paul's role in bringing about a different portrayal.
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Biographical Note

Aliou Cisse Niang, Ph.D. (2007) in Biblical Interpretation/New Testament, Brite Divinity School. He is Assistant Professor of Biblical Interpretation/New Testament at Memphis Theological Seminary.

Review Quotes

"Aliou Cissé Niang is like 'a scribe trained for the kingdom' who takes from his treasure what is old and what is new. The 'old' he offers is sound and thoughtful historical criticism. The 'new' he advances is a postcolonial reading that arises from his own lived experience under French hegemony. The outcome is a book that requires hard and careful work, but work that will no doubt be matched by the fresh learnings offered here. This book is a major contribution to newer perspectives now required for faithful reading of scripture." - Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"In a bold move Niang departs from the traditional arena of debates on south versus north Galatia and re-locates Paul’s Galatia on the map of colonial empires: those of Rome and France. Reading the letter through the lens of the Sénégalese Diola tribe under French rule, with remarkable sensitivity for inter-contextual echoes and resonances Niang’s sociopostcolonial hermeneutics unearths a resistant Pauline voice. Understood this way, the baptismal formula in Gal 3:28 emerges as an appeal to decolonize and indigenize perceptions of God, community, and self, and to practice an alternative egalitarian ethos of inclusivity that counters the dominant construct of world and society imposed by the colonial overlords and their emissaries." - Brigitte Kahl, Professor of New Testament, Union Theological Seminary New York

"In the opening pages of this work, our attention is instantly riveted by the author’s introductory musings: '…As a Senegalese who converted from Islam to Christianity and who is trained in Biblical interpretation in the West, I often wondered how Paul’s Epistle to the churches of Galatia should be read and appropriated in the context of colonial, post-and neocolonial Senegalese Diola communities of West Africa…' (3). Aliou Niang does not fail to deliver on this striking and challenging opening premise, and his observations on Paul and Galatia, France and Senegal, colonial and postcolonial, are rich and provocative. Moving comfortably between Roman literature, artistic representation, Paul, and ancient literature – and then modern West Africa and nineteenth- and twentieth-century colonial history, Niang’s work is a synthesis that forces a new reading and appreciation of Paul’s radical theology. By showing us how France read 'the other' in West Africa, Niang then alerts the reader to significant aspects of Jewish, Greek, and Roman attitudes toward 'the other' in ways that enrich our appreciation of the social consequences of both contexts. Niang strikingly contrasts this with Paul’s experiments toward a 'free community' of faith, and Paul’s reading of 'the other' in reference to 'Galatians/Gauls'. This is original, challenging, and in many ways quite frankly exciting, scholarship. Not everyone involved in postcolonial analysis of Scripture, or Pauline studies, will agree with all of Niang’s analysis, but no one should overlook this important work." - Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles

Readership

Biblical scholars interested in applying postcolonial theory to Paul (and classical literature) to illumine Graeco-Roman questions of identity and power relationships and their implications for contemporary understandings of colonialism and liberation.

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