Stories and Silence: Issues and Methods Supporting the Decolonization of the Catholic Church

“My dissertation models an interdisciplinary anticolonial critique of academic theology and religious studies, ethics, and Indigenous studies in order to foreground accountability within the settler colonial structure of the academy, and to push for the flourishing of Indigenous land, life, and futurity. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Elisha Chi Villanova University and Haverford College Contact Me

About this dissertation fellowship

My dissertation explores the norms and practices embedded in various relational touchpoints between the Catholic Church, theology/religious studies and ethics scholars, and Indigenous people. The interdisciplinary approach I take relies upon a normative lens of anticolonial critique and scholarship as defined by Max Liboiron, and in the service of decolonial outcomes, per the work of Eve Tuck and Wayne Yang. I claim that any attempt at justice in the relationship between Indigenous and settler-colonial actors must foreground anticolonial accountability, the return of Indigenous land, and the flourishing of Indigenous land and life. My work attempts to articulate and model examples of such anticolonial ethics through conversing with ethical questions arising in: Indigenous Christian identity "Are Indigenous Christians authentically Indigenous?"; eucharistic sacramentality "What impact should stolen land have upon Catholic eucharistic theologies reliant upon materiality?"; University truth commissions "Where do the rhetorics of university truth commissions fall short of decolonial practice?"; and ethnographic method, "How might theological ethnography benefit from notions of ethnographic and Indigenous refusal?" These questions - narrated via four discrete chapters - are grounded in the articulation of story as a method of political theology. The significance of this work rests in both its interdisciplinary approach, and its insistence on anticolonial approaches in the methods of ethics, theology and religious studies, and the scholarly practices inherent in the institutions that house those academic disciplines. Indeed, scholarship that merely seeks to add representative voices of Indigenous peoples results in theologies and ethics of inculturation - or practices that maintain violent colonial power structures. In lieu of inculturation, and its cousin, reconciliation, anticolonial critique better fosters decolonial outcomes.