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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 2023 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:

With particular awareness of the AAR's presence in Texas, this session seeks to respond directly to the realities of a post-Dobbs America. We hope to bring together scholars who work in a range of regions and on different religious traditions in order to share their knowledge and comparative perspectives to deepen our understanding of the issues surrounding reproductive justice. In the planning phase, we seek to gather together scholars and activists who wish to think through and prepare some type of public program on the issue of Reproductive Justice for the annual meeting. 

  • Religion, Ethnonationalisms, Socio-Political Unrests, and Fragmentations in Africa

Often understood as a cause or catalyst for ethnopolitical tension or conflict in normative discourse on religion, “religious tolerance,” and conflict, recent scholarship from African and African-descended scholars interrogates the role of religion in conflict and challenges assumptions that argue for a causal link between religion and ethnonationalism in Africa. This session welcomes papers that critically engage the role of religion in ways that expand the current discourse. Some questions to consider include: 1) does religion transcend ethnonationalism? 2) does religion lend itself to cooptation or complicity in conflict? 3) how do systems of belonging or community on the continent resist or contribute to conflict and ethnic fragmentation? Whether theorized as catalyst or counter-measure, religion is key to understanding many ethnic, socio-political unrests and fragmentations on the African continent. We seek papers that address and theorize the role and impact of religion on these issues on the African continent.

  • Food, Faith, Ritual, and Celebration at the Border (a pre-formed panel)

Co-sponsoring units 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.

  • Religion, Afrofuturism and Afropessimism 

Religion and Philosophy are often connected discursively in defining new contours to explain the human condition. The role of person and community, for example, has long been a way for African-descended people to consider their identity and community as a form of self-naming and charting a path towards self-direction. Afrofuturism and Afropessimism are two philosophical interventions shaping the discourse, critically engaging the ongoing effects of racism, colonialism, and other historical events influencing Black populations. We seek papers that explore, interrogate, and address how religion interacts, intersects, and informs Afrofuturist/Afropessimist theoretical and methodological engagements, particularly, the ways in which they construct and disrupt mainstream ideas about Black personhood, being, and community. 

  • Co-Sponsorship with the History of Christianity Unit Ancient Christianity in Africa

We invite proposals that examine early African contributions to formative Christianity (1st-10th centuries C.E.). We particularly welcome proposals that consider ways in which ancient African expressions of Christianity can help decolonize monolithic eurocentric historical understandings of the history of Christianity."

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, the benefits and challenges of working with these kinds of sources.

  • African Religions Unit Film Screening

Film: Woman King

Join us for a free screening of the 2022 epic film about the all-female Agojie warriors. The screening will be followed by a discussion centered around gender, religion, the slave trade, etc.

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. Website:


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

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

Review Process Comments