“The Monastic Idea in South Africa: 1879 – present” is the working title of a new dissertation I’m doing at UKZN. It came out of a question I’ve been asking since 2000: why are no new monastic communities in South Africa? This term is a little more defined than ‘intentional community,’ and I explored it in relation to Bonhoeffer’s seminary at Finkenwalde in a MTh thesis (see earlier post). My conclusion was that South Africa doesn’t share the counter-cultural ideology and economic trajectories in the West which spawn Protestant NM movements. The present study aims to go deeper in exploring the monastic idea or vision in this country.

A vague outline could look like this:

  1. the monastic idea – what is it, really?
  2. local monastic expressions:
    • Catholic
    • Orthodox
    • Protestant
    • ecumenical / new monastic

A few questions immediately present themselves:

  • Monastic idea: how would you define this? Are the following categories applicable: culture, charism, calling? What others are applicable?
  • Time frame: 1879 marks the arrival of the Trappists in South Africa. Should it be earlier or later? Why?
  • Location: South Africa or Southern? The latter would Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland – but how would this inflate the study?

A separate discussion thread for each monastic expression (above) would be helpful.