PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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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 2018 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:

• Economic Modes of Religious Life in Africa
For this panel we solicit papers that explore the intersections between religious and economic modes of social life in Africa both historically and today. How have economic systems and orientations developed in Africa vis-à-vis religious thought and practices, and how have religious traditions and communities developed vis-à-vis economic logics and broader systems of spiritual and material exchange? What are the critical relations between dominant forms of “religion” and “economy” in Africa, and how can alternative forms of religious and economic life be imagined?

• Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding in Africa
This panel examines the complex and manifold roles of religion in dynamics of conflict and violence, on the one hand, and peacebuilding and reconciliation, on the other hand. We welcome papers that critically discuss such dynamics in African cultures and societies, focusing on the roles of religious beliefs and values, religious practices and ritual, religious communities and leaders, faith-based organizations, etcetera.

• Charisma, Personality, and Power in African Religions
With the Anthropology of Religions Unit, the African Religions Unit, and the Africa Diaspora Religions Unit, there is a proposed panel on Charisma, Personality, and Power in African Religions. This panel aims to explore the potential of charisma, as an anthropological and sociological concept, for the critical and comparative study of authority, personality, power and leadership in African religious settings. We invite papers that provide ethnographic, historical and/or theoretical insight into the meanings, performance, and workings of charisma in various religious traditions and communities on the continent and its diaspora. Papers that explore charisma in relation to other categories of power, such as gender, age, race, and sexuality, and in relation to political and institutional structures, are particularly welcome. This session is a panel with formal papers. Please submit proposals for 15 minute papers.

• Decolonization as Healing
With a wide range of other units, we plan to co-sponsor a session on the theme of decolonization as healing, recognizing that colonization in Africa and in other parts of our world has resulted in both historical and ongoing threats to health and wellbeing. We are looking for papers that address facets of this theme, including but not limited to: “Place, Land, and Environmental Degradation,” “Decolonization/Restoration of Identities,” “Vocabularies and Pragmatic Applications of Rituals and Ceremonies,” "Reclaiming the Past, Imagining the Future," and “Tradition as Healer”. Co-sponsored with the Religions, Medicines and Healing; African Diaspora Religions, African Religions; Asian North American Religion, Culture, and Society; Body and Religion; Indigenous Religious Traditions; Latina/o Religion, Culture, and Society; Native Traditions in the Americas; Religions in the Latina/o Americas; Religion in South Asia, Religion in Southeast Asia; and Religion, Colonialism and Postcolonialism; and World Christianity Units. Successful proposals will clearly identify where the project fits within the Call for Papers, and will speak to its broader implications for African American religious history.
This session is a panel. Please submit a proposal for a paper or presentation. If your proposal is chosen, your paper will be circulated ahead of the conference and you’ll be asked to give a brief (5-7 minute) summary of the paper during the conference session.

Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members until after final acceptance/rejection
ChairSteering Committee