"The personal is political": faith and religion in a public university


  • Isabel Apawo Phiri University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Sarojini Nadar University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


In this article, the authors argue that faith and religion can and must be exposed to academic scrutiny, and that the best place for such scrutiny is the public university. They illustrate how the great rallying cry of the early feminist movement to make the personal political can help in ensuring that religion does not become a “private” matter. Drawing on empirical research with religious women who experience gender-based violence in various forms, the authors argue that when religious beliefs are put into practice without critical introspection, religion becomes dangerous at both the personal and public levels. In the end, the authors make a case for a multidisciplinary approach to the study of faith and religion at public universities, and they argue that closing down the study of religion and faith at universities, will cause an increase in religious fundamentalism and promote life-denying instead of life-enhancing practices in religion.


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