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: https://africanreligionsgroup.wordpress.com/
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African Religions Unit
Call for Proposals for November Meeting
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 2024 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:
Increasing Prominence of Africa in Global Practice of Islam and Christianity
By 2060, Africa is projected to be the demographic center of Christianity and a major center of Islam, with over 40% of Christians living on the continent and 27% of the global Muslim population residing in sub-Saharan Africa alone. When combined with North African Muslims, the continent will compose a plurality of the global Muslim population as well. Given the increasingly prominent role African Christians and Muslims will play in the global practice of both traditions and the relative lack of attention given to this significant development, this panel seeks papers that analyze the past, present, and future place of African Muslims and Christians within the broader context of the world’s two most widely practiced religions. This panel invites papers that consider how Africa is being defined and located in Christianity and Islam. What makes African Christianity and African Islam “African”? Can Islam and Christianity be considered African Religions? Potential topics include, but are not limited to, the long history of Islam and Christianity on the continent, the role of both traditions in African geopolitics, “reverse missions” and Muslim and Christian diasporas, African Muslim and Christian involvement in global debates around gender and sexuality, ramifications for Muslim-Christian dialogue and interreligious relations, and religion and development.
Religion, Politics, and Elections in Africa
Following the recent attempted and successful coups in West Africa, this panel seeks papers that address the numerous ways religion and politics are intertwined in Africa. With growing concern about the democratic and electoral processes around the world, what role have, do, or should African religious traditions play in politics? Are there lessons the rest of the world can learn from the ways religious traditions in Africa have engaged with or distanced themselves from politics and elections? Although headlines frequently focus on examples of religious and political violence, the panel actively invites papers that focus on nonviolent engagement in political and religious spheres as well, or interrogate the violence/nonviolence binary that is often superimposed on social and political movements. The panel also encourages papers that are attentive to issues related to the differences between traditional and modern/post-colonial political systems, the complicated nature of “secularism(s)” in African societies, and the interplay between religious authority and figures and political authority and figures.
Dialogue between African/Afro-Diasporic Religions
Over the past few decades, scholars have increasingly moved beyond simplistic conceptions of a one-directional relationship between African and Afro-diasporic religions. Additionally, given prominent discourses of African purity; the surge of “Africana” as an epistemological category that features Afro-diasporic scholarship; increased connection through modern technology; and the mythic and cosmic role of African religious “homelands;” the relationship between religious traditions on the continent and in diaspora has only become increasingly complex and nuanced. Where some see opportunities to revitalize their communities with access to experts and rituals from a “homeland”, others resist conceptions of continental African traditions as more authoritative, I and yet others see opportunities for mutual exchange across several traditions. This panel invites papers that speak to the role of African traditions in Afro-diasporic traditions, Afro-diasporic traditions in indigenous African traditions, and/or the mutual dialogue between these two or more parties. While the most well-known examples of traditions involved in such dialogue include Yoruba oriṣa worship, Haitian Vodou, Brazilian Candomblé, and Cuban Regla de Ocha/Santería, the panel actively invites papers on all African and Afro-diasporic traditions, the practice of Islam and Christianity on the continent and in diaspora, and African religious traditions outside the Atlantic as well.
Book Roundtable: Emerging Scholarship on Religion in Africa
This roundtable engages the work of some of the most recent scholarship on religion in African contexts, highlighting emerging themes and methodologies in the field. Each author will offer a brief synopsis of their text and respond to generative themes in one another’s publications, emphasizing the interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary engagement of the study of religion in Africa. The presentations will be followed by a discussion of future directions and challenges for the field, using these books as a starting point.
Intohan Idumwonyi, Crashed Realities? Gender Dynamics in Nigerian Pentecostalism (Leiden: Brill, 2023).
David Tonghou Ngong, Senghor’s Eucharist: Negritude and African Political Theology (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2023)
Ayodeji Ogunnaike, Forms of Worship: How Oriṣa Worship Became Religion in Nigeria and Brazil (Forthcoming Duke University Press)
Danielle Boaz, Voodoo: The History of a Racial Slur (Oxford University Press, 2023).
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Akeem Adagbada, University of Cambridge1/1/2024 - 12/31/2029
Ruth Amwe, Princeton Theological Seminary1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Jessie Fubara-Manuel, University of Edinburgh1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026
Itohan Idumwonyi, Gonzaga University1/1/2024 - 12/31/2029
Ayodeji Ogunnaike, University of Virginia1/1/2022 - 12/31/2027
Sheila Otieno, Boston University1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026