Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion

First Advisor

Dana W. Wilbanks, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Edward Antonio

Third Advisor

John McCamant

Fourth Advisor

George Tinker


African Christian theology, African social ethics, African traditional religions, African women's theology, Land conservation ethic, Liberation theology


In this study I analyze the problem of land degradation in Zimbabwe's Communal Areas (CAs) from the viewpoint of the Shona of Zimbabwe with the aim to formulate a land conservation ethic that motivates people in CAs to promote ecological stability. The Shona in CAs are proximate agents as well as victims of environmental degradation. The imperative to survive in a situation characterized by drastic inequalities in the allocation of land and an exploitative global economic system, forces them to engage in unsustainable land use practices. Land conservation policies in Zimbabwe marginalize Shona values and norms, especially as they relate to land. Against this background, the study advances the thesis that the problem of land degradation in CAs is primarily social, involving our right relationship with nature and with each other. Therefore, technical approaches to the problem must be complemented by an ethic informed by Shona religio-culture whose main components are African Traditional Religions and Cultures and African Christianity.

The study employs the hermeneutical circle of liberation theology as a paradigm by which to do ethics. The paradigm follows the three methodological concepts of liberation theology, especially as Clodovis and Leornado Boff expound it. These are: the socio-analytical mediation and the historical-analytical mediation; the hermeneutical mediation and the practical mediation. In this method, the oppressed (the Shona), are the key ethical category for assessing all ethical behavior. The paradigm begins with the lived experiences of oppressive social situations and proceeds to formulate a system of ethics aimed at changing the oppressive situation faced by the oppressed in CAs.

The study concludes that a land conservation ethic that effectively addresses the problem of land degradation in CAs is a liberative ethic that comes out of Shona people's experience of oppression. It is an ethic that seeks to remove conditions that degrade the land and dehumanize people in CAs.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Maaraidzo Elizabeth Mutambara


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

231 p.


Religion, Theology, Gender Studies