AAR Annual Meeting
November 18-21, 2017
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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.
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 2017 Annual Meeting, we invite paper as well as full panel proposals that respond to the following themes relevant to any region of the African continent (North, West, East, Central, Southern, and the Horn):
• Rites of Passage: Children, Youth, and Adolescents in African Religions and Rituals.
For this panel we solicit papers exploring the role of children, youth, and adolescents in African religious traditions and ritual contexts, in both historical and contemporary settings. (Co-sponsored with the Childhood Studies and Religion Unit.)
• Decolonizing the Study of Religion in Africa.
In South Africa and in other parts of the continent, students have recently held mass protests for a decolonization of higher education. Engaging with these movements, we solicit papers addressing the question of decolonization with particular reference to the study of religion in Africa - a field that hitherto is largely defined by Western theoretical and methodological approaches. What does it mean to decolonize this field - its epistemologies, methodologies, scholarly practices, and intellectual traditions - and to think about Africa as a place and space from where new, postcolonial theories of religion can be developed?
• Religion, Vulnerability, and Precarious Life in Africa.
Engaging with the overall theme of the 2017 Annual Meeting - Religion and the Most Vulnerable - this panel invites papers to explore questions of vulnerability and the precariousness of life, as well as of agency and hope, in relation to religious beliefs, ritual practices, and faith communities in African contexts.
In addition to these panels, we plan to convene a pre-arranged session on Devaka Premawardhana's book, The Fringes of Faith: Existential Mobility in Everyday Mozambique (University of Pennsylvania Press 2017).
• Religion and Contemporary African literature (for possible co-sponsorship with Arts, Literature, and Religion Unit)
We encourage the participation of graduate students in our sessions. The chairs of the unit are willing to give feedback on draft papers by graduate students, which then should be sent to them by email at least two weeks before the deadline.