AbstractsPhilosophy & Theology

Kids seeking alternative identity and spirituality through the lived theology glimpsed in the Harry Potter series

by Anastasia Apostolides

Institution: University of Pretoria
Year: 2015
Keywords: Harry Potter; Practical Theology; Lived theology; Alternative identity and spirituality; Christ discourse; Consumer discourse; Transformation and transcendence; Wounded Christ; Sacred and mundane stories; Youth culture; UCTD
Record ID: 1439954
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2263/44336


The Harry Potter series has been part of many kids’ socio-cultural context since 1997, and is a phenomenon that has had a huge impact on them (many of whom are now adults). It is argued that some kids’ identities and spiritualties may have been directly shaped, and may continue to be directly shaped, by the alternative sacred story presented by Rowling. As this has the Christ discourse woven into its narrative, there are kids who are using the Gospel values on a daily basis, whether they are aware of it or not. Rowling’s fantasy asks readers to question the impact that the dominant discourses of their ‘realities’ may be having on their identities and spiritualities, putting them in a position to question if that is indeed who they want to be. This study was motivated by how kids, who live in a Western society where one of the sacred stories is power/materialism/consumerism, can not only appreciate, but also live out (in lived theology) values of the Harry Potter series which are in complete opposition to the Western sacred story of power/consumerism/materialism. Since the consumerist discourse places a heavy burden on people to keep up with their socio-world, if they do not live up to these demands they will simply not ‘fit in’. People, especially kids, do not want to be perceived as outcasts. Practical theology seeks to react to, and understand the shifts that have a direct implication on how people’s lives are lived out and affected daily, in response to their socio-cultural world. One such shift is how people are now seeking ultimate answers from alternative sources such as for example literature, and specifically in this thesis, the Harry Potter series. Therefore, when a fantasy, such as Harry Potter, is published, it is important to question what kind of transformational and even transcendental impact it may be having on them. This is also an important question from a lived theology perspective as the Harry Potter series is lived religion. Lived theology seeks to understand how people practice and apply the sacred outside the Church and the four Gospels, while still using the Gospel message to live out their life on some level every day. These values include people’s practices, their actions towards others within their socio-cultural context and their personal sacred experiences that may allow them to transcend the way in which materialism affects their identity and spirituality. Lived theology seeks to understand how these values may affect practical theology. While some people no longer feel comfortable with/drawn to the Church, and feel alienated from the Gospels that were written for a socio-cultural context that is very different from Western society today, this does not mean that human beings are no longer spiritual/religious/Christian. They continue to seek for answers to the ultimate question at different stages of their lives.