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Unsettling Theology: The Theological Legacy of the Indian Residential Schools of Canada 1880-1970

Citation: Bryant-scott, David (2021) Unsettling Theology: The Theological Legacy of the Indian Residential Schools of Canada 1880-1970. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.

Bryant-Scott Unsettling Theology (Final Amended) April 2021 .pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

From the 1880s to the 1970s certain Canadian Christian Churches and Catholic religious orders were involved in the foundation and operation of the Indian Residential Schools. Funded by the federal government of Canada, these schools were part of an ongoing policy to assimilate and eradicate the Indigenous peoples in Canada. In retrospect these have been declared to be genocidal. At the time the church entities enthusiastically supported these schools, and apart from a few sexual predators, the majority of the workers were “good” people who felt that they were doing God’s work. What were the theologies that justified such involvement? How do “good” Christians get involved in genocide? What kind of theology might enable us today to not do something similar? The first part of this dissertation reflects on the unsettling character of Levinas’s philosophy and develops his critique of western philosophy into a critical method. The second part surveys theologies that influenced the creation and operation of the residential schools, which is seen as a part of a larger colonial project predicated on the marginalization and assimilation of Indigenous peoples. This involves the consideration of the theological justification of the European settlement of North America, as well as the attitudes towards Indigenous peoples from 1500 to 1910. These theological concepts are subjected to the Levinasian critique, and they are found to contribute towards violence and genocide. The third part looks at kenotic theology especially in the writings of Bulgakov, Coakley, and others, and considers whether it can help Christians resist the totalizing of the earlier theologies, and work to heal and empower (it does).

Creators: Bryant-scott, David and
Subjects: History
Keywords: Indian Residential Schools Canada 1880-1970, Indigenous Peoples of Canada, First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, Indian Act (Canada), Theological Reasons for Colonization, Theological Justification for Colonization, Genocidal Theology, Kenosis, Kenotic Theology, Immanuel Levinas, Sergius Bulgakov, Sarah Coakley, World Missionary Conference Edinburgh 1910
Divisions: Heythrop College
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 27 April 2021 (submitted)
  • 31 July 2021 (completed)


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