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Cultural Diversities East and West: Postcommunism, Postcolonialism and Ethnicity

Central European University, 22 July-2 August 2002

Fellow profile

Allan Williams

Allan Alexander WILLIAMS

Country South Africa
Residence Witbank
Nationality is South African, the cultural background is Euro-African
Sex Male
Age 49
Zodiac sign Aries
Educational background B.Sc. Ing. (Elek.); B.Sc. Hons. (Elektronics); B.A.; B.Th. Hons.; M.Th.
Present position rector
Employer Witbank parish
Other activities I have served on the CPSA Advisory Board for Theological Education; CETE; the SA Anglican Theolgical Commission, been mayor's chaplain, continue to do snippets of religious radio broadcasting on the national broadcaster
Research interests  
Current research I have been appointed by our bishop onto a committee to look at residual racism in our diocese. This has just started and I'm not sure where it will go or how it will develop -it seems to me that a lot of stuff has been consciously processed by us, but areas at a deeper level have not yet been adequately touched.
Conferences, competitions... 1995 - Stuttgart, Germany - Fellow of the Stuttgart Seminar in Cultural Studies on Re-writing History; 1998 - Stuttgart, Germany - Fellow of the Stuttgart Seminar in Cultural Studies on The translatability of cultures
Professional affiliation Missionary Society of South Africa, NTSSA
Excerpts from publications  
Case study for the summer course I think it will touch on the above and deal with examples of it.
Statement of interest
Effective open communication in a body consisting of culturally diverse people who have been encouraged NOT to communicate at all - let alone openly.
I applied for the CEU Summer School because it touches on areas of society that I believe are highly relevant to our situation in a PostApartheid South Africa and quite specifically in our church. The Anglican Church of Southern Africa has always been opposed to Apartheid and there are notable names such as Desmond Tutu, Trevor Huddleston, ffrench-Beytagh, Mark Nye, Njongonkulu Ndungane (the present Archbishop), and others who enjoyed the hospitality of the State for varuious periods of time. Thought the church was implacably opposed to Apartheid, the previous government played very cleverly on latent racial biases and prejudices to condition the majority of the white members of the church to a very much less radical stance. There were, of course, exceptions.

The Anglican Church has always been a black church if one simply looked at the numbers. The power has only more recently moved in that direction. The white section of the church - through Apartheid - had far greater material resources than did their black sisters and brothers. "He who pays the piper calls the tune" proved fairly true in this context as well.

The second issue is that the Church, by being "open" (in the parlance of the then govt.) brought together many different people from a variety of cultural backgrounds and languages. In a "normal" society this would have produced strains, but in such a pressure cooker environment it led to a variety of responses - some healthy, some less so. The issue of language usage is a very delicate one: the previous govt insisted on education in Afrikaans (the white language developed locally derived from Dutch) - the people wanted either mother tongue education or English language education. Mother tongue education might lock people into small geographical regions where that language is spoken - whereas English would give them access to the world, literally.

As black priests are elected to bishoprics and run Dioceses, one question is that of language: which should be used? and in what proportions? how often? when? in which contexts? how sensitive is oversensitive? what is lacking in sensitivity?

The second issue is that of residual racist attitudes. How do we deal with these in a way that doesn't devolve into a doctrinaire political correctness (we've had that before!), but that helps both those offended by it and those inflicting it to grow togther - the purpose, after all, of a church. One needs to be consciously aware of a problem before one is able to deal with it - how do you raise it without offending people left, right and centre (all in the name of removing offence!). That way lies not growth, but some form of chaos. Does one set up joint study programmes to examine areas of common concern thus dealing with real problems in our developing democracy and as a byproduct generating undrstanding, awareness, and personal growth? Is this too subtle - are more direct means appropriate. All of the question in these two areas have to work within in a context of fact: all who come to church are "volunteers" - nobody makes them come, and people vote with their feet quite easily. The step that is needed is that of discipleship, that level of commitment which allows tought issues to be addressed without anybody walking away - this was the crux of the first democratoc elections in 1994 - we came very, very close to a bloodbath because people walked away and were brought back at the very last moment (actually after the last moment to be technically correct).

I believe and hope that I can learn the skills, techniques, and insights to bring back some of these answers or possible avenues of answers to my country and to my church. In this I will value every insight that helps to make me more sensitive to the pain that people are working through and that sits behind a great deal of unresolved anger and many socio-political issues. I work in a multicutural context without being specifically trained in this area - I probably have made many mistakes - I desire to make fewer and to become actively more a part of the solution than in perpetuating the problem.

Personal message I am looking forward to meeting people from a whole range of contexts totally alien to me and being enriched by having to get my mind around many new insights and perspectives.
Plans for the future My basic motivation is to empower the people whom I'm serving so that they can grow as persons in all their abilities and creativity in the midst of a context of weak economic growth, large retrenchments, corruption and selfishness - to do this, I believe I need insights some of which will come from this Summer School.
Likes love tomato sauce (!), biltong, good red wine, good beer, eisbein, gulash.
Dislikes tripe (the cooked variety as well), arrogance, unkindness.
Hobbies Coin collecting, photography, calligraphy, reading, gardening.
Website My church.
The mission agency of which I'm chairman - this was started to help people dumped by the previous government in the middle of nowhere.
Contact Mail me at:

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