The greatest strength of the Desmond Tutu Centre (DTC) is the diversity of researchers, at all levels, working under its auspices. What each of these scholars hold in common, is their desire to challenge – contextually, theoretically, and methodologically – asymmetrical systems of power and commonly accepted assumptions about the social world and human experiences.

“True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin or any other identity attribute.”

– Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Given the transdisciplinary philosophy of the DTC, the thematic foci do not function as discrete categories but rather as guidelines for illustrating the depth and breadth of the Centre’s undertakings. The DTC champions research and teaching that endeavours to explore, excavate, and explain the multiple and complex ways that these research areas, questions, topics, and projects intersect.

Thematic Focus Areas of the Centre

Religion and Gender Justice

Through this thematic area, the Centre seeks to foster critical research and civic engagement, which actively challenge the intersecting and systemic powers that produce and maintain the marginalisation and oppression of those who identify as female and queer.

Projects within this thematic focus will draw on the variety of resources available within feminist, queer and masculinity studies to develop knowledge and just-action in the complex and diverse areas where religion and gender intersect. These include but are not limited to: sexual reproductive health, violence against women, sexuality, queer identity, women and leadership, and religious and cultural laws and traditions.

Religion and Economic Justice

This thematic focus area seeks to interrogate the ways in which religion is implicated in the institutionalization of economic oppression and examines the resources available within religion to destabilise prevailing imbalances of economic power. Furthermore the ways in which gender, race and ethnicity intersect with the economy of the sacred are explored.

Religion and Ecological Justice

This thematic area foregrounds the role of religion in the pursuit of ”justice for the earth”. The religion and ecology research focus area critically engages the connections between anthropocentric and androcentric discourses and practices and examines the ways that religion and the environment are connected with culture, economy, politics, community, heritage, and indigenous knowledge systems.

Research in this area explores the position of religions and cultures in determining and contesting commonly accepted norms that constitute the relationships between and among all living beings.

Religion and Political Justice

With this thematic area, the Centre encourages the pursuit of research, conversations and partnerships that challenge the taken for granted nature of concepts and configurations such as democracy, equality, justice, reconciliation, and human rights in the social sciences and society. In light of the role of religion in general and Christianity in particular, in both the colonial and apartheid projects, the Centre is dedicated to exploring the possibilities for social justice through scholarship that engages religion as a critical concept and as a central component of human existence. This is demonstrated through our commitment to providing teaching and research that prioritises giving voice and visibility to religious traditions, religious practitioners, and aspects of religious experiences that have hitherto been marginalized in the academy.

The scope of this area includes but is not limited to the study of religion’s manifold entanglements with state, government and non-governmental organizations, law, media, social, and protest movements, and a range of additional formal and informal institutions.

Religion and Educational Justice

Given the decolonial fervour sweeping through the academy, the character of the study of religion is undergoing a paradigmatic shift that scholarship from South Africa is poised to lead. Critically reflecting on pedagogical praxis is a key task in this context – and so we focus on both transforming the content and the processes required for more decolonial, feminist and queer pedagogies. Furthermore, in this theme, we conceptualise the postgraduate training workshops and supervision, offered within the Centre as a step towards “educational justice.”

The doctoral training programme is a project in the decolonisation and democratisation of education. Through focussed thematic weekend workshops the process of writing a PhD is demystified and students are given the necessary support they need to navigate the research process.

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