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
Engaging Diaspora Religions Through Literature, Storytelling or Archival Narratives
(Co-sponsorship between the African Diaspora Religions, Afro-American Religious History, Womanist Approaches to Religion and Society Unit, African Religions, The Women and Religion Unit, the Women of Color Scholarship, Teaching and Activism)
Our units propose a panel focused on literature, poetry, orality, and archival sources related to African, African Diaspora, or Afro-American religions. Iconic texts from authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Gloria Anzaldua, and Gloria Naylor, among others, engage with faith, spirituality, embodiment, ancestrality, mourning, fellowship, borders/border crossings, and other issues, questions, and challenges. We invite papers that explore the power dynamics reflected in such texts, the provenance of the same, and the benefits and challenges of working with these kinds of sources. Do we understand and interpret faith differently depending on whether we rely on oral history or literature? Do archives permit access to faith?
Food, faith, Ritual, and Celebration at the Border [a Pre-arranged Panel, this panel will not accept submissions]
Co-sponsorship between the Religion and Food, African Diaspora Religions, African Religions, and Comparative Study of Religion units will internally select panelists for a panel theme on religion, food, agriculture, land, and those who work the land, including migrant, low-wage, child, injured, or enslaved workers.
For example, sabbatical and jubilee traditions structure restorative rest for bodies and land. Additionally, traditional ecological, embodied, and place based knowledge systems shape dynamic interactions between people, food, and lands. Such knowledge systems may be responsive to disruptions to local land, waterway, and climate.
For a co-sponsored session with the African Diaspora Religions, Religion and Food, and/or African Religions unit, papers considering the above themes with specific reference to the African and/or African Diasporic religious context. Recognizing our location in borderlands Texas, we invite papers considering geographically relevant topics such as:
- religion and food in Texas, Mexican, Latin American, Indigenous, Black, and borderlands Latinx communities
- meat, barbecue, meat-eating, and alternative meat
- religion and food in relation to land, water, agriculture, and those who work the land, often migrant workers
- the consumption of peyote, ayahuasca, and other ethnobotanical/entheogenic/psychedelic substances
More broadly, we welcome papers on topics such as religion and food in relation to healing and ethnomedicine; control, power, agency, and struggle; gender and sexuality; food and the spirit world.
Africana Religion, Queer and Trans Studies, and Mysticism: Creativity, Synthesis, Marginality and Embodiment
(Co-sponsorship between African Diaspora Religions, Mysticism, and Queer Studies in Religion Units)
In Africana religions, devotees/practitioners navigate visible and invisible worlds in ways that lead to mystical union/communion. What kinds of embodied practices or material technologies are used to facilitate mystical encounters? What role do creativity, story, and sound play in fostering mystical engagement? How do the fluid and hybrid nature of Africana religions enable marginalized and queer identities to experience mystical empowerment and transformation? We invite papers on Africana religion and mysticism including themes related to embodiment, movement, and gesture; queer identity; race, gender, and marginality; ritual, ceremony, and adornment; material culture and technologies; energy and performance; and sound, music, and rhythm.
Slippery Borderlands and Fluid Crossroads: African Diaspora Religions and Queer/Trans Identities
(Co-sponsorship between Queer Religions and African Diaspora Units)
Concretely defined by walls and guards; impeded by nature through mountains, deserts or bodies of water; or delineated by restrictive inchoate ideologies. Borders can have hard edges as well as amorphous boundaries. Borders are anchored in spatial mobility, situational identity, local contingency, and ambiguities of power. Historically borders have been political and ideological sites of economic exchange, cultural mixing, contestation of identity, empire, nation, and regional authority with the imposition of rules, edicts and restrictions. This co-sponsored panel proposes to explore the permeability of borders in light of the policies, politics and presentation of identity predicated on differing ideologies of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or systems of faith and spirituality.
Statement of Purpose
Scott Barton, University of Notre Dame1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026
Carol Marie Webster, Independent Scholar1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
Steering Committee Members
Andrea Allen, University of Toronto1/1/2019 - 12/31/2024
Elyse Ambrose, University of California, Riverside1/1/2019 - 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
Elana Jefferson-Tatum, Tufts University1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
Malene Johnson, Case Western Reserve University1/1/2023 - 12/31/2028
Malene Minor Johnson, Chicago Theological Seminary1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027