This series of podcast episodes will focus on Decolonising Research, and feature talks from the Decolonising Research Festival held at the University of Exeter in June and July 2022.

The sixteenth epsiode of the series features University of Exeter PGR Olabisi Obamakin interviewing academic and Exeter graduate Dr. Victoria Omotoso.

Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

Transcription

 

00:09

Hello, and welcome to rd in the in betweens. I'm your host Kelly Preece. And every fortnight I talk to a different guest, about researchers development, and everything in between.

 

00:31

Hello, and thank you for tuning in to this online resource. Today we are joined by our very own Dr. Victoria Omotoso, who just graduated with a PhD in theology from the University of Exeter. So

 

00:47

thanks for having me, I would say yeah, it's been a long road. COVID has been hard for everyone. But um, yeah, finally got back graduation. I've been doing about

 

01:02

a hard journey. Or you look beautiful the day one away? Yeah, tell us a little bit about yourself. And what your research questions that your research interests are?

 

01:17

Yeah. So hi, everyone. Yeah, I'm Victoria. I was a PhD student in candidate at the University of Exeter. Prior to that I had done my degree in my undergrad in music and theology at Leeds, and then went on to do a master's in Biblical Studies at the king's King's College London. And it was there were really all the kind of first seedlings were sown, I guess, into me looking at theology, and media and Jesus films and relationships into that. And that then led me to be able to do kind of drop of appraisal, and yes, come to Exeter to do my research. So I was just born in London, Nigerian ancestry. But I grew up in South Africa. So a lot of my kind of cross cultural upbringing has really informed my research and the pathway and the trajectory that ended up taking. So my research was looking at audience reception. And that means like how audiences respond to a, you know, a film or a piece of art or any of those things. So, I was looking at cross cultural audience reception from audiences in the UK and in South Africa, because of my own kind of personal connections to those two geographical locations, and looking at how they respond to Jesus in film, and specifically, a black Jesus and a more westernized Jesus. And using those as parallels to compare and contrast how people responded to Jesus and film. And a lot of it actually, what came out of that was understanding really how our own worldviews our own contexts, and cultural locations really influence how we perceive Jesus and films and how we kind of construct our own perceptions in light of our own biases and assumptions of, of what we may or may not have known. So a lot of my research involves there a lot of my research involves, currently, my research interests involve a lot of kind of like decriminalisation work, postcolonial work looking at how, because a lot of my work was focused in the Global South, looking at how colonialism, even in film has made a massive impact in kind of a cultural subconsciousness of how people perceive a white Jesus. So yeah, that's kind of where my interests lie.

 

04:09

So your PhD thesis was entitled image in Jesus, ethnic identities and cultural dynamics in the luminaire project, the gospel of Mark and the Son of Man. So tell us a little bit more about that, like how you did your research and and what your findings were.

 

04:26

Yeah. So, a lot of it was like I said, based on audience reception and cultural ethnography studies. So, how it was set up was I had some main questions, you know, like how, to what extent you know, how do people respond to views and film, to what extent are a kind of use for themes so like, fidelity to the text for example, which aims to determine How closely related These films were to the biblical texts that they were aiming to kind of emulate. And music and gender and all those things. And ethnicity, of course, were kind of the four major themes I used as lens. So with that came setting up focus groups in, in the UK, and in South Africa. And again, just showing them parallel versions of these two Jesus's that I had. And yeah, their findings were really interesting. In the UK, a lot of the audiences were middle about, like middle class, British white people, and in South Africa, it was very much a mix, you had white South Africans, black South Africans, but the majority of the pupils in Africa were mainly black South Africans, that were responding to these focus groups. So I had them set up and ask them to kind of, yeah, just tell us what tell me what they thought. And it was interesting, because the, the white South Africa, the white, British, excuse me, the white British audience, very much preferred the black Jesus, which is from the film Son of Man. And they were very much like, you know, this is great, couldn't stand or Western version, they thought it was boring, they thought it was clinical. Whereas complete opposite in South Africa, particularly with the black audiences who were very vocal, that they could not have a black Jesus. On screen, they were just like, this is absolutely not what you should be. This is completely, you know, not what the Gospels are, they much prefer the Western Jesus. So, you know, begs the question as to, you know, when we actually start to strip back people's historical locations is, you know, in a nation like South Africa, which has a lot of tension with race and ethnicity, historically, when you place a savior into the paradigms of a black body, what are the implications of that? And what does that have subconsciously? And also, on the flip side, when we come to the global north, you know, you know, the, our suspicions of exoticism and suspicion as a Western liberalism, that makes something Oh, because it's different. It's much more preferred. So, you know, these tensions are so nuanced and on both sides of the spectrum, but it was a very kind of interesting study to undertake. Yeah.

 

07:47

This just sounds absolutely fascinating. But what what role do you think that colonialism may have played in the perception of the South African audience, I haven't had that yet.

 

08:00

It's interesting, because obviously, I'm dealing, I'm using film as a lens and as a tool to be able to kind of decipher what's going on in terms of post colonial implications of this. And it's, you know, it's amazing to see how that dominant image of the white Jesus has been so much globalized and commercialized. And we think way back, you know, with Christianity and, and the raw Christianity played in say, this is the image of Christianity, which is a white Jesus, and bringing out over over to the continent, of Africa, of course, and in these communities that were taught Christianity, they were also taught all the iconography, they were also taught, you know, not just doctrines, but iconography is a ways of living. And it was a whole another culture shipped, when Christianity came, and part of that culture shift was the images and what were these images, images, you know, overweight Jesus, and that has been so much ingrained into our subconscious, that even film, you know, the films that were played had always been overweight, Jesus, you know, of this generation of people growing up, it's only in kind of recent years now, I think filmmakers have started to cover a consciousness and, and audiences themselves as the importance of audiences is that audiences themselves have that agency to be able to, you know, kind of propagate that, what they want this authenticity. So only in more recent years, overseeing kind of filmmaking develop is something that will be a bit more authentic. But, you know, it's a long way to still go for people to still kind of shed that colonial image and the effects of that, particularly in a nation Do you like South Africa?

 

10:02

Yeah. So with regard to D colonialism, and theology and film, and just in general, what would you like to see in the next 10 to 20? years?

 

10:13

Yeah, I'd like to see a complete culture shift. And and I'm I mean, culture shift, I mean, that kind of opening and recognizing of what we have what we mean, when we're talking about, you know, decolonizing theology in itself, you know, me as a good, clean of decolonization and film, and there's so many industries and disciplines and departments that kind of need to recognize, and I think, of course, they said, you know, the first step is actually recognizing that these systems are in place, and that, you know, you need to be able to, because you're, again, you're working with people it's going to be, you're always going to know that there is always going to be opposition and challenges and delays into wanting this change. But I think if collectively, people start to actually realize, well, you know, there are other epistemologies, for example, there are other ways of knowing there are other, you know, kind of attractions through which we can extract meaning and gain knowledge. And I think I'd like, I'd love to see that in in, you know, in our field in the next, you know, 10, to 10 to 20 years, just seeing that kind of appreciation for voices of the voices, other points of view. And it's not just a case of, including, you know, it's not just a case of including non white scholars into the curriculum, or including, you know, non white sources, but actually having a broad dialogue, you know, with with, with various voices and various kinds of points of knowledge through which we can all I think, learn something and gain something, rather than just making it transformative, I think. I'd love to see that in theology of theology to be more transformative, more on the frontlines of what we're doing. And part of that is understanding that there's a decolonizing process that has to go through, for us to be able to actually just interact with the greater representations of society, we need to be able to represent what society looks like, and society does not look wait fully white, and society is not fully male. And society is not in a straight white male Christians. That's not what society represents. And I think theology has a very much I see as a very much a prophetic goal, actually, to be able to break through those barriers and actually engage with the more wider representations of the other voices that we have in society. Wow,

 

13:02

that's amazing. Just finally, that the last question. So with regard to decolonization, what would you also like to see in the kind of Academy at large in other departments in higher education with regards to decolonization? Yeah,

 

13:18

I mean, it's hard to kind of imagine what that would look like, in reality, but I think similarly, similarly to what I said, in terms of, in society, what I would like to see as well is again, like, you know, having opportunity for, you know, kind of ethnic minority students, and giving them I think, when they, you know, when you see an ethnic minority, you know, and, and women that's in academia, and in a high position, as they are definitely influences kind of the younger generation, that something is possible. And I think, even that, in itself is a deep learning process, just looking at the faces that are there, that it already is also part of decolonizing you know, departments and systems and just see who is in the room, who are the people that are, you know, sat at the table, so to speak. And I think, encouraging that even from like, right, from under, you know, from from from high school and college, like, encouraging, you know, other ethnic minorities, you know, white working class, like encouraging these young people to be able to actually aim and I want to aim for higher aim for change and whatever discipline they decide to go for, I think, would be, again, another great shift in our departments. So when we look at a staff, when we look at who are the staff in our department is not again, all just one template, but rather kind of a representation like it says, of society and with all that beautiful representation and diversity, you know, come so many different ways. Um, understanding and all of that can only gain traction for the better.

 

15:07

Thank you, Victoria. I mean, yeah, like your your career has really been inspired, inspired me and seeing you in the academy has, you know, inspired me so much. So thank you so much. So how can we keep in touch with you like, what are your social media handles? Yeah. And what are you up to you? What can we expect from you in the next couple of

 

15:27

years? Yeah, well, yeah, you can catch me. I'm mostly on Twitter, as, as in victory. So you know, as in victory, that's where you can catch me. Kind of on social I tweet a lot about, yeah, just things going on in the world, and academia and stuff like that. Yeah, I mean, some pretty exciting things coming up. Most particularly is that my PhD has been accepted by Bloomsbury publishing house. Thank you. Thank you. So yeah, a lot of my next couple months at least, will be kind of dealing with that and working with that. Coming, you know, to exercise or to do a few talks here and there. So yeah, so normally, I treat everything I'm doing so yeah, you can kind of keep up keep up with victory. I don't know. Well, I was gonna think of a catchy name. You know, like Keeping Up With The Kardashians kind of thing. But I don't have one. So you can just follow me and find out what I'm up to.

 

16:30

Amazing. So yeah, thank you so much for joining me. Thank

 

16:33

you so much,

 

16:35

lady. So yeah, we're very excited to see what you do in the next couple of years. And we're excited for your book when it comes out.

 

16:43

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It's been so great. Always love. Coming back to Exeter for my first love. Family. See you. Thank you. Thanks.

 

16:59

And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe. And join me next time where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers development and everything in between.

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