PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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Program Book (PDF)

Preliminary Program Book (MS Word)

Floorplans of Annual Meeting Facilities (PDF)

Exhibit Hall Listing and Map (PDF)

Program Book Ads (PDF)

Annual Meeting At-A-Glance (PDF)

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African Religions Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

The central aim of the African Religions Unit is to address and fulfill the Mission Statement of the American Academy of Religion with particular reference to the African continent as a vital part of our globalized, post-colonial world.
The African Religions Unit aims to provide a forum within the American Academy of Religion for the discussion of research on the multiplicity of religious traditions in Africa, methodological issues in the study of the religions of Africa, and African religious responses to ethical and social issues affecting the continent. The Unit encourages the participation of African and non-African scholars in the leadership of the Unit and in participation in its programs. It further actively seeks collaboration with other Units in the AAR, as well as with the African Association for the Study of Religions, in order to promote the study and understanding of religions in Africa in the wider academy.

The members of the African Religions Unit come to the study of the subject from a variety of schools of thought and methodological approaches, including but not limited to anthropology, history, history of religions, literary studies, sociology, and theology. The three major religious traditions under investigation are indigenous religions, Christianity and Islam, and the Group’s leadership strives to create some balance in the attention paid to these three major traditions.


Call for Papers: 

Our Unit encourages critical inquiry about religions originating in Africa as well as all those practiced there. Proposals should go beyond description; they should critically engage the conceptual tools and methods employed in analysis. The steering committee will evaluate the merit of each proposal based on the clarity of its thesis, the strength of the evidence referenced, and the quality of the conclusions drawn from it in terms of both style and substance. For the 2019 Annual Meeting, we invite papers as well as full panel proposals that respond to the following themes relevant to any region of the African continent and its diverse religious cultures:

● Creative Arts and Religious Cultures in Africa -
For this panel we solicit contributions that explore the representation and appropriation of religious symbol, language, text, and belief in African creative arts, such as film, music, theatre, and literary writing. The panel examines how religion is part and parcel of the artistic, aesthetic, cultural, social, and political dimensions of African cultural production both historically and today.

● Commodification of Religion in Africa - 
This panel explores the processes through which religion is commodified – that is, how religious practices and symbols become commercialized and incorporated into a consumer culture and media landscape. These processes can work in different directions: on the one hand, religious services and artifacts are made available for purchase and consumption, while on the other hand consumer products are being branded through a religious aesthetic.

● Religion, Health, and Healing -
We welcome papers that examine the complex and multifaceted intersections between religion, health, and healing in Africa. How do the performance of religious ritual, the engagement in religious practice, and the shape of religious belief, contribute to, or hinder, health and well-being in African societies and cultures? How does organized religion – religious communities, institutions, faith-based organizations – address questions of disease and healing? How does religious engagement with health (broadly defined) negotiate indigenous and Western epistemologies? We specifically welcome papers addressing issues of mental health and wellbeing as well as of disability.

Studying Religion with Achille Mbembe -
This panel engages the work of Cameroonian (South Africa based) philosopher and political theorist, Achille Mbembe, and explores its implications for the study of religion in Africa and beyond. In particular, it engages Mbembe’s two key texts: De la postcolonie (2000; transl. On the Postcolony, 2001) and Critique de la raison nègre (2013; transl. Critique of Black Reason, 2017). (For a possible co-sponsored session with the Critical Theory and Discourses on Religion Unit.)

● Religion, Governance, and Political Leadership -
The question of religion and politics remains a pertinent one and gains new salience in the ever-changing African religious and political landscapes. With recent developments in countries such as Zimbabwe, Egypt, Mozambique, and Uganda, and with upcoming elections in Nigeria and South Africa among other countries, we solicit papers that provide a critical analysis of current affairs and that contribute to advancing the conceptualization of the complex intersections between religious thought and practice, on the one hand, and structures of governance and the performance of political leadership, on the other.

Religious Interactions and Flows in Africa -
Where religious traditions are usually conceptualized as separate and fixed entities, this panel foregrounds the multiple interactions between, and the fluidity of, traditions of religious thought and practice in Africa. Moving beyond somewhat static notions of religious diversity and plurality, we solicit papers that explore the ways in which diverse African religious movements – Christian, Islamic, Indigenous, or otherwise – are dependent on, and mutually constitute one another, in local, transnational and global settings. (For a possible co-sponsorship with the World Christianity Unit.)

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
ChairSteering Committee