Elaborating on ubuntu in a Johannesburg inner-city church

  • Elina Hankela University of Johannesburg
Keywords: Culture and religion -- South Africa, Ubuntu (Philosophy), Central Methodist Mission (Johannesburg, South Africa), Culture and Christianity -- Africa, Methodism, Migration, Xenophobia, Racism, Refugees


The article was originally delivered as the speech of the winner of the 2014 Donner Institute Prize for Outstanding Research into Religion, and deals with some core findings of the research that won the prize, namely, the doctoral thesis Challenging Ubuntu: Open Doors and Exclusionary Boundaries at the Central Methodist Mission in Johannesburg. The author approaches the meanings of ubuntu (Nguni: humanity/humanness) in the context of a Methodist church that sheltered thousands of African migrants in its premises in the inner city of Johannesburg. Using ethnographic research methods, she analyses both the inclusionary message of humanity preached at the church and the exclusionary boundaries between the people who lived in the church and the local congregation that worshipped there. Based on the social dynamics of the church community, the author suggests the rules of reciprocity and survival as some of the socio-moral patterns that set the boundaries to the actualisation of the moral ideal of ubuntu in this context. Overall, the case of this particular church speaks to a broader discussion of the meaning of and limits to being human in one world.  
Donner Prize Winner
Apr 13, 2015
How to Cite
Hankela, E. (2015). Elaborating on ubuntu in a Johannesburg inner-city church. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 26, 366-78. https://doi.org/10.30674/scripta.67462