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Sammanfattning: In this thesis, I investigate the use of the concept of the poor within Latin American liberation theology, with the aim to construct a common point of orientation for the different contexts of academic liberation theology. Drawing on Clodovis Boff's observation that there is a fundamental dissonance between liberation theologians’ discourse on the poor and the theologians’ conversation with the poor, I highlight the difference between the academic liberation theology's use of the poor as a theological term and the theologians’ encounter with the poor person. A basic problem that the present thesis aims to clarify is that these are two different phenomena. By maintaining a strict boundary between academic, pastoral and popular liberation theology and by refining the poor as a theological term, I attempt to clarify that academic liberation theology works with abstractions, while pastoral and popular liberation theology works with people. Furthermore, I argue that the poor as a theological concept should be understood and used as a common mental construction – what sociologists term a ”figure of thought”. As such, the figure of thought should be comprehended as a fixation image in which several intertwined figures could be read out. Despite this diversity of potential motifs, I contend that two motifs dominate this figure of thought: a “motif of lacking” and a “motif of resonance”. Finally, by discussing how the figure of thought could be used within academic theology, I outline the basic features for how an academic liberation theology could be designed in the twenty-first century, including what challenges and potential conflicts such a project could be facing.
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