AAR Annual Meeting
November 18-21, 2017
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Our unit explores broad geographies, histories, and cultures of people of African descent and the way they shape the religious landscape, not only in the Caribbean and the Americas, but also in Europe and Asia. We define “diaspora” as the spread and dispersal of people of African descent — both forced and voluntary — through the slave trade, imperial and colonial displacements, and postcolonial migrations. This Unit emphasizes the importance of an interdisciplinary approach which is central to its vision. The aim is to engage a wide range of disciplines and a variety of scholars who work on different aspects of African diaspora religions. It considers the linguistic and cultural complexities of the African diaspora, the importance of African traditional religions, Afro-Christianity, Afro-Islam, and Afro-Judaism, the way they have and continue to inform an understanding of Africa, and also the way they have and continue to shape the religious landscape of the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
I. Medicine and Mothering in African Diaspora Religions.
In traditions of African and African diaspora religion, healing is very often a central conceptual and ritual element. And medicine is understood in broad terms, encompassing a variety of approaches that seek to address imbalance/malaise that can be spiritual, physical, and/or societal.
Our session will explore the role of mothers (whether of ceremonial or blood lineages) in the healing work of African diaspora religions. Indeed, the feminine divine as “mother” is a vitally important idea in many of the traditions we study. The role of spiritual “mothering” is not limited by cis-gender identities and is embodied by human devotees as well as the sacred energies that humans cultivate and worship.
We encourage papers that examine the work of mothering in various forms (including, but not limited to – leadership, counseling, mentoring, instruction, nurturing, initiation, reprimand, material assistance, etc.) in relationship to practices of ritual, pharmacopeic, or societal healing in religions of communities of African descent. Papers that insightfully trouble the categories of "mothering" and "healing" are also welcome.
II. Black and Red Atlantics.
For a joint session with the Indigenous Religious Traditions Unit: For many indigenous peoples of Africa and America the Atlantic basin has been pivotal to the circulation of religious ideas, technologies, bodies, ritual objects, and sacred knowledges. Our session will, therefore, explore the Atlantic as a central site for the proliferation and even re-imagination of indigenous religious identities, communities, material cultures, and knowledge systems. We encourage papers that examine the relationship between Black and Red Atlantic religious communities and/or that probe the significance of the Atlantic to the formation of particular indigenous communities and their respective religious traditions, practices, and philosophies.