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African Religions Unit

Call for Proposals

Our Unit encourages critical inquiry about religions originating and/or practiced in Africa. 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 2021 Annual Meeting, we particularly invite papers as well as panel proposals that respond to the following themes relevant to any region of the African continent and its diverse religious cultures:

Jacob Olupona’s Contribution the Study of African Religions
Few people have done more to enrich our understanding of African religions than Jacob Olupona. Spanning and incorporating perspectives from African and African diasporic religious studies, phenomenology, history of religions, and ethnography, among others, his body of work, while focusing greatly on indigenous religious traditions, has also contributed to our understandings of Christianity and Islam as practiced by Africans on the continent and in the diaspora. We invite papers that examine the impact and legacy of his work on the study of religion in Africa and the diaspora. We are particularly interested in papers that deal with both theoretical and materialist challenges to and opportunities for the study of African religions, defined broadly. These include but are not limited to emic and etic perspectives, phenomenology, hermeneutics, the public sphere, and modernity.

Religion & Public Health During COVID-19
This panel considers religious communities’ responses to public health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, including restrictions on religious gatherings, mask wearing, and vaccine compliance. With attention to the history of medical racism and religious persecution, papers may also explore various communities’ experience of health disparities and access to healthcare. We especially welcome proposals addressing these issues from Africana and other indigenous religious perspectives. (For a possible co-sponsored session with the Religions, Medicine and Healing unit)

All Black Lives Matter: African Religions, Black Spiritualities and the Indigenization of Movements Against Global Anti-Blackness
Protests against the systematic killing of African American women, men and children, which took embodied and virtual forms in 2020, were not limited to the United States, but extended to Europe and Africa in a show of transnational solidarity. In the midst of a pandemic that had already claimed millions of lives by June 2020 worldwide, pain and hope intertwined as people from all walks of life took to the streets of their respective cities or their social media newsfeeds, to expose systemic racism, police brutality, and the vestiges of colonialism, while advocating for social change.
On June 15, 2020, Fon priests, priestesses, and diviners in Benin undertook a revenge ritual, invoking Gu Gbadagly as the deity is known in Fon, or Ogun (in Yorùbá), not only to avenge the murder of George Floyd, but to empower Floyd to rise in the immaterial world and to mete out justice on his own behalf. The revenge ritual was significant not only for its viral impact on social media platforms, but for its articulation of the stake that African Religions and African Diaspora Religions have and must have in the flourishing of African and African descended people worldwide.
Ritual technologies are outward performances of ontological proclamations affirming Blackness as a communal connector of Africa and the African diaspora. The revenge ritual clearly asserts an understated claim that this session seeks to amplify: a threat to Blackness somewhere is a threat to Blackness everywhere. This call invites papers at the intersections of religion and ritual, justice, and transnational solidarity. Papers that engage, interrogate, and explore the cross-section of indigenous interventions, interruptions, and subversions of anti-Blackness, and the particular role that religion and Black spirituality play in these processes are particularly salient for the theme of this session.

Honoring the Scholarship, Sisterhood, and Scholastic Legacy of Dianne M. Stewart and Tracey E. Hucks
Dianne M. Stewart and Tracey E. Hucks are not only two of the most prominent Africana religious studies scholars, their friendship, their colleague-sisterhood, and their marasa-ibeji consciousness (Clark 1991) truly embody their transdisciplinary theoretical and methodological approach to the study of the Africana religious world (Stewart and Hucks 2013, p. 31). Having been informed by and influenced a range of fields including Womanist and Black theologies, African American religious history, African religious studies and philosophy, African diaspora religious studies, and history of religions, we invite papers that examine either collectively and/or comparatively their theoretical and methodological approach to the study of religion, and their contributions to the field of Africana religious studies more specifically. We also invite papers and/or creative engagements that explore their scholar-sisterhood and how it not only has informed and fostered their collaborative research and writing but also how Africana religious practices, theologies, and onto-epistemologies have potentially influenced their collegiality and their mentorship of proceeding generations in the field. (For a possible co-sponsored session with the African Diaspora 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 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.



Steering Committee Members





Review Process

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

Review Process Comments