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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 2020 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:

Globality and Locality in African Religions
For centuries, global and local dynamics have shaped the varieties of religion in Africa. The movement of peoples, ideas, objects, among other things, within and outside the continent have had and continue to have an impact on people's religious beliefs and practices. The result has been a rich landscape of religious dynamism. What has been the nature of this impact and how have they shaped our understandings of religion in Africa? Papers in this panel will examine how African religions, on the continent and elsewhere, have responded to both local and global dynamics.

Teaching Religions in Africa
Teaching African religions – in all their diversity – brings its own challenges to the classroom. These challenges relate to the longstanding problem of othering and the history of (mis)representation of African societies and cultures, including their religious beliefs and practices, in the West; the contemporary politicisation of African religious traditions and identities both within Africa and beyond; the intricacies relating to power and positionality in knowledge production, and the limitations of academic categories, concepts and methodologies. This co-sponsored section will feature reflections on, and demonstrations of innovative pedagogical approaches, curriculum design, teaching practices, and textbook resources. (For a possible co-sponsorship with Teaching Religion.)

Religion and Popular Culture in Africa
Religion and popular culture are often seen as separate spheres, yet in African societies there is considerable overlap and fluidity between the two. Religious language, imagery, symbols and texts often shape, and are shaped by, the products and influences of contemporary mass culture in its various forms. Papers in this panel explore this productive relationship between religion and popular culture in African contexts. (For possible co-sponsorship with Religion and Popular Culture.)

Embodiment in African Religions
African religious cultures, both historically and to date, are intricately connected to embodiment. The body appears as a locus of self, spirit and divinity, and it mediates morality, belief, and experience. The embodied nature of African religions – indigenous religions, Christianity, Islam and other traditions – calls into question longstanding Western dualisms such as of body and mind, spirit and matter, transcendence and immanence, ability and disability. Papers in this panel explore the complex and multifaceted ways in which religion and the body in African religions are intertwined. (For a possible co-sponsorship between the African Religions Unit and the Body and Religion 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 study of 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