Commemoration, rememoration and Reformation: some historical-hermeneutical remarks in light of the 1917 Reformation celebrations of the Dutch Reformed Church

Vosloo, Robert (2016)

CITATION: Vosloo, R. 2016. Commemoration, rememoration and Reformation: some historical-hermeneutical remarks in light of the 1917 Reformation celebrations of the Dutch Reformed Church. Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae, 41(3):79–91, doi:10.17159/2412-4265/2015/764.

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Article

In 2017 the 500th anniversary of the Reformation will be commemorated worldwide through various conferences, church and cultural events, and publications, also in Southern Africa. How should we commemorate the 16th-century Protestant Reformation in 2017 in Reformed circles in Southern Africa? Against the backdrop of this question, this article argues for the need of a self-critical reflection on the possible abuses associated with commemorations as such, as well as by a heightened historical consciousness of the way in which past commemorations of the Reformation functioned in processes of identity construction and 'othering'. With this in mind, the article proceeds in two parts. In the first part the aspect of commemoration is problematised by referring to the critique of the possible abuses of memory associated with commemorations, as highlighted in the work of Tzvetan Todorov, also with reference to his distinction between commemoration and rememoration. The second part of the article then turns to some historical documents that give us a glimpse into the 400th anniversary of the Reformation in 1917 in Reformed circles in South Africa, and specifically within the Dutch Reformed Church. This is followed by some concluding remarks.

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