Postcolonial Liberation Theology

Postcolonial theology and Liberation theology share an essential raison d’etre: to deconstruct the oppressive nature of the monolith of religious dogma, by calling attention to the plight of the oppressed,  to systemic injustice . As an academic discipline, postcolonial theology questions and critiques structures of power, dominant systems, and embedded ideologies in order to suggest social transformations that recognize and validate the perspectives of marginalized peoples, cultures, and identities. Postcolonial theology recognizes differences and allows for a multiplicity of voices with a goal of creating a reciprocal exchange of perspectives from all voices. Postcolonial theology seeks emancipation and authenticity for all marginalized or oppressed identities.


Such theologizing happens “in context”, and “in the present” so that the work inspires awareness, critical dialogue, and integration of ideas. The primary goal of postcolonial theology is to critique hegemonic ideological constructions that make absolutist or totalitarian claims and to provide legitimacy for alternative theological views.  We can look at postcolonial thought as a form of liberation/communal theology that serves as a catalyst to destroy the inequalities of class, race, gender, and other deplorable acts.  Ideally, liberation theology itself seeks to see the Bible and Christian doctrines through the eyes of the poor. The Puebla  and Medellin documents of the early and late 70’s by the Latin American Bishops Conference (CELAM) are an excellent example of this thought in action, in their attempts to locate a “preferential option for the poor”.  Postcolonial/liberation theologies themselves have expanded or have connections to distinct academic branches such as Black liberation theology, womanist and feminist liberation theology,  eco-theology, queer theology, planetary theology to name a few.  Distinct regional understandings of such theologies also exist, with splits occurring even within a continent, significantly in Latin America.


Essential Reading:
Gutiérrez, Gustavo 1971 A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation (revised edition, 1988). Maryknoll: Orbis.
Gutiérrez, Gustavo 1984 We Drink From Our Own Wells: The Spiritual Journey of a People. Maryknoll: Orbis
Ellacuría, Ignacio and Jon Sobrino, eds. 1993 Mysterium Liberationis: Fundamental Concepts of Liberation Theology. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Dussel, Enrique 1985 Philosophy of Liberation. Maryknoll: Orbis.


Further Reading:
Akhtar, Shabbir 1991 The Final Imperative: an Islamic Theology of Liberation. Bellew.
Boswell, John 1980 Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. Chicago: University of ChicagoPress.
Eiesland, Nancy L. 1994 The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability. Nashville: Abingdon.
Ellis, Marc H. 1989 Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation: The Uprising and the Future.  Maryknoll: Orbis.
Fabella, Virginia and Lee Sun Ai Park, eds. 1990 We Dare to Dream: Doing Theology as Asian Women. Maryknoll: Orbis.
Linzey, Andrew 1995 Animal Theology. University of Illinois Press.
Plant, Judith 1989 Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism. Philadelphia: New Society.


(with assistance from: – see this site for a fully expanded bibliography)


What strengths and weaknesses do these interventions have for providing a framework for service and action?
How does liberation theology perform a critique of class?
How does this work expand a central theological concept ( i.e Christology)?
How well do these interventions translate to non-Christian religious thinking?
What are the limits to such a social theory?
How do postcolonial/liberation theologies see theology in relation to praxis?



Submitted by Anupama Ranawana

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