University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > World History Workshop > Benedicto K.M. Kiwanuka, Theological Imagination and the Making of Constitutional Discourse in Colonial Uganda: A Global Intellectual History

Benedicto K.M. Kiwanuka, Theological Imagination and the Making of Constitutional Discourse in Colonial Uganda: A Global Intellectual History

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This paper explores the conceptual history of a single, moral ideal, –bwenkanya, justice, and how it was reasoned and re-imagined in Catholic Buganda throughout the twentieth-century. Throughout the first half of the twentieth-century, etymological and proverb-use development indicate a gradual, yet fundamental shift in the conceptual classification of ‘justice’, particularly among Ganda Catholics. There developed a discursive shift away from the pre-colonial language of decisiveness and precision (sala ‘musango)—which had come to be effectively legislated by a ruling minority in the post-1900 state—to the language of participation and mutual discussion, – kkaanya (–kkaanyizza). By envisioning the latter, Catholics sought to create political space for majority-based participation. In the context of Uganda’s imminent independence, Uganda’s first elected prime minister, Catholic politician Benedicto Kiwanuka, radicalised participatory-oriented conceptualisations of justice with theological abstraction, on the one hand, and the constitutional ideals of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau on the other, to not only imagine political space for marginalised Ganda Catholics, but also non-Catholic, non-Baganda as well. By drawing on the political philosophies of Locke and Rousseau, Kiwanuka envisioned a nation ‘which stood firmly together’, while debating internal contestations of authority and recasting religiously biased monarchicalism.

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