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RC community celebrates Dr Adanna James who received Christian Ethics prize

Dr Adanna James, Dean of Studies at the Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs, St Augustine won the Msgr Arthur Janssen-Prize for Christian Ethics for her outstanding dissertation: ‘Towards a poetics of disability theology: from Paul Ricœur to Éduard Glissant and Jean Vanier.’

The prize is jointly awarded by Belgium’s KU Leuven’s Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies and the Academic Foundation Louvain, to an outstanding PhD dissertation that was defended during the six calendar years preceding the year of the award. It carries a monetary reward of €2500.

According to Theology Research News, James “defended her PhD in 2019 at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies under the supervision of Prof Dr Yves de Maeseneer (Coordinator of the Research Group AnƟropos)”.

The jury selecting James praised the high standard of research stating, “The dissertation is written in a precise and insightful style: the author guides the reader through difficult terrain but takes sufficient time to explain things, take stock, and summarize, along the way. The content shows a superb understanding of two complex authors – Ricoeur and Glissant – and succeeds in building a persuasive narrative that endeavors in an engaging intellectual exchange, showing shortcomings of the former and great benefits of the latter’s approach in view of arriving at a disability theology that is more inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities.”

The Jury lauded James as a scholar who is “bound to become an important academic and relevant voice in both disability studies and theology.”

In a video posted with the news of her win, James said she was thrilled, honoured and grateful for the award. She thanked the KU Leuven theological faculty staff, students, and the jury which considered her work.

She said she owes a debt of gratitude especially to Prof de Maeseneer who mentored her in the seven-year “journey” from master’s to doctorate. She disclosed her thesis was motivated by growing up with someone with a disability and her quest to “find a language that would do justice to those wonderful but often inexplicable experiences.”

Her research was also prompted by a deep appreciation for her own Caribbean culture. “I hadn’t realised how this has shaped a very unique way of understanding reality until I came to live among people from all over the world. These two desires met, fell in love, and gave birth to my doctoral study…This research was really about a fundamental problem or issue of theological anthropology the understanding of what it means to be human in the Christian tradition.”

Her Master’s research highlighted the overly intellectual conceptions of humanity within the Christian tradition and how this resulted in exclusion particularly of persons with profound intellectual disabilities and her doctorate attempted to find “different anthropological conscripts”. It also sought a theological method and language “that will support those anthropologies and allow for persons with profound intellectual disabilities to be viewed and represented in a dignified way.”