In Search of the Public Theologian: Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel’s Womanist Public Engagement




Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel, womanist theology, Reformed theology, public theology


Academic theology remains male dominated, both in bodies present and in the research methodologies employed. It is a commonplace to refer to Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel in terms of a foundationally Reformed theologian and church polity specialist. This is often done without adequate attention to the important role that gender played both in her biography and teaching. There is a need to centre our focus on the matter of gender to see how this had influenced her life’s work. The roles fulfilled by Plaatjies-Van Huffel were as an African feminist, decolonial thinker, ecumenist and Reformed theologian. It may be helpful, when considering her life’s work, to draw these orientations together through a study of her as a public theologian. An exploration into the contours of her intellectual life may thus be helpful for both understanding the life and work of Plaatjies-Van Huffel, and in analysing the continued development of public theology as an intellectual discipline. Such an analysis, nevertheless, must account for her centring of a particular gender politics in the public sphere as a black woman. Alice Walker offers a definition for “the womanist”: “A black feminist or feminist of colour … Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength … Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female.” Plaatjies-Van Huffel embodied this definition by working for unity, reconciliation and justice in the three publics. How may a womanist and public theological reading of Plaatjies-Van Huffel enrich our understanding of her? This article employs womanist theory as a lens through which to read and understand Plaatjies-Van Huffel as a public theologian.


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Author Biographies

Ashwin Afrikanus Thyssen, Stellenbosch University

PhD Candidate, Department of Systematic Theology and Eccleisology

Sheurl Davis, Stellenbosch University

Master of Theology Candidate, Department of Old and New Testament




How to Cite

Thyssen, Ashwin, and Sheurl Davis. 2021. “In Search of the Public Theologian: Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel’s Womanist Public Engagement”. Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae 47 (2):17 pages.
Received 2020-07-31
Accepted 2020-10-01
Published 2021-07-08