November 18- Andrew DeCort: “Authority, Martyrdom, and the Question of Axiality in Ethiopian Political Theology”

Monday, November 18, 2013 12:00 noon-1:30 pm Swift 106

Join us for Andrew DeCort’s paper, “”Authority, Martyrdom, and the Question of Axiality in Ethiopian Political Theology””

This paper will (i)  briefly converse with Bellah’s description of sacral kingship and the transition to ‘axiality’ in his Religion in Human Evolution; (ii) show how early Ethiopian Axumite civilization was essentially a sacral kingship; (iii) argue that this basic understanding of authority didn’t change substantially with the Christianization of Ethiopia in the fourth century under Ezana and following to the medieval period; and (iv) investigate to what extent Abba Estifanos should or should not be understood as one of the first clear cases of “axiality” in Ethiopian politico-religious history (in short, Estifanos challenged the emperor Zara Yaqob based on a notion of ‘divine law’ that transcended royal law and the king’s claim to represent God). As a final step (v) I will make some remarks about the ongoing relevance of this medieval martyr and his ‘school’ for contemporary Christian theology in Ethiopia confronted by political oppression and the temptation to retreat into political silence. In short, I will be making the claim that Christian theology in Ethiopia, among other things, should – and periodically has – challenge(d) prevailing notions of authority with a constructive vision of ‘martyrdom’ (which doesn’t simply mean dying).


Evan Kuehn will respond. You can find the paper here (UChicago ID and password needed). Please feel free but not obligated to read the paper in preparation. Please email contact if you are not a University of Chicago affiliate but would like to look at the paper in preparation for the workshop meeting.


A light lunch will be served.