Contending for Invented Space in African Context and Biblical Text


Contextual Bible Study
Ujamaa Centre
Invented Space

How to Cite

West, G., Zwane, S., & Carlos, H. (2024). Contending for Invented Space in African Context and Biblical Text: Intersecting Gender, Sexuality, Ethnicity and Economics. Old Testament Essays, 36(3), 587–611.


The Ujamaa Centre for Community Development and Research, through the work of Sithembiso Zwane, has theorised a continuum of contested space, including invited space (controlled by dominant sectors), invigorated space (whereby marginalised sectors contend for space within invited space) and invented space (as marginalised sectors transform these spaces into space they control). In this article, we extend our conceptualisation of contested space to the biblical text itself, recognising within biblical text these three forms of space, both in terms of socio-historical text and narrative text. We use the book of Ruth as our biblical text, recognising, first, the production of the canonical text as a contestation of space, following the hermeneutic of Itumeleng Mosala by working backwards away from the canonical form towards marginalised textual remnant voices and second, that literary-narrative setting within the book of Ruth can be read as a contestation of space. Socio-historically, we argue that the canonical text co-opts marginalised textual voices (in terms of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and economics). Narratologically, we argue that the Ruth narrative includes traces of both socio-historical contestation and narrative contestation of space through Ruth’s struggle for invented space. Alongside this focus on the biblical text, we reflect on how the Ujamaa Centre’s community-based work might use these resources for re-reading Ruth with local Southern African communities (in both South Africa and Mozambique) struggling for redemptive invented space in the intersection of gender, sexuality, ethnicity and economics.

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