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.
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African Diaspora Religions Unit
Call for Proposals
- Making a Way Outta No Way: Celebrating Rachel E. Harding’s A Refuge in Thunder (2000)
It is an essential and necessary time to herald a touchstone and emancipatory reference for today’s threats on Black identity and the sanctity of the Black body. Rachel Harding’s A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé and Alternative Spaces of Blackness (2000) opened a new dialogue and provided a valuable resource regarding the evolutionary development of Candomblé, a hybrid Afro-Brazilian religion and a cornerstone of Diaspora religious expression, despite the persecution and subjugation of its adherents. Methodologically, Harding drew primarily on primary sources deftly illustrating Candomblé’s extraordinary dynamism as a resource that embodied African traditions, values, and identity politics for the faithful. A Refuge In Thunder demonstrates how Candomblé fostered creation of an “alternative space,” a transformative matrix for enslaved and subjugated Blacks to agentively assert individual and collective identity in solidarity against Maafa and their subalternity under dominant political and religious forces. This panel celebrates Dr. Rachel E. Harding’s work but also invites proposals that encourage us to identify, advocate and champion “alternative spaces” that guide Black and Brown folks today and create new forms of scholarship to support radical change in African Diaspora religious communities at large.
- The Snake Who Swallowed Its Own Tail: Haiti, Catastrophe, and Religious Resilience
This panel invites proposals that explore Haiti as a site of disaster, catastrophe, and resilience. Together we ask, “How do we turn catastrophe into a strength or a signal and symbol for renewal, regionally and globally?” Fighting in solidarity with Haiti today is analogous to fighting for the end of Apartheid in the 20th century. 'If [Haitians] are not free, none of us are free.' Haitians have dared to resist and exist despite all the incursions meted out on their homeland: the colonial project, global anti-blackness movements, the ongoing assault against Vodou shrine communities, desperate and corrupt politics, environmental degradation from post-colonial transnational global economies, and the destructive vagaries of weather in the form of hurricanes and earthquakes. And, yet Danbala-Ayida Wedo, the great cosmic egg and the dual snake-rainbow, that swallows its own tail, reminds us of the perpetual continuity of life and the cycle of renewal even during disaster and catastrophe. This panel thus invites proposals that explore Haitian religious responses of resilience to catastrophe and disaster. We also invite proposals that explore how other African Diaspora religious communities have imagined in Haiti hope for a Black Republic even during the ongoing catastrophe of past and present-day colonialisms as well as environmental disasters.
- Our unit is also co-sponsoring a pre-arranged panel honoring Al Raboteau (1943-2021). Co-sponsored between Afro-American Religious History, Eastern Orthodox Studies, African Diaspora Religions, and North American Religions.
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Andrea Allen, University of Toronto1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Elyse Ambrose, Meadville Lombard Theological School1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Kijan Bloomfield, Columbia University1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Ashley Coleman Taylor, University of Texas1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Meredith Coleman-Tobias, Mount Holyoke College1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Carol Marie Webster, Columbia University1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024