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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 2022 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:

  • Roundtable on Work of Professor Afe Adogame

The esteemed scholar of religion in Africa, Afe Adogame, has contributed a significant body of work in numerous disciplines, informing and shaping discourse in the study of religion, African Religions, religions of the African diasporas, and the effects of globalization and modernity on all of these traditions. His latest book, Indigeneity in African Religions, examines the origins, epistemologies, symbolism, and praxis of the Oza people of Southwest Nigeria. From this context, Adogame positions indigeneity as a powerful tool to both decolonize knowledge and understand socio-religious change in Africa. The papers in this roundtable offer reflections and analyses of Indigeneity in African Religions, situating the text within the broader context of Adogame’s rich scholarship.

  • Articulations of Gender and Religion in Africa and the African Diaspora

African religious traditions possess diverse, dynamic, and highly relational notions of gendered identity. Social and religious paradigms of gender have frequently had complex and mutually influencing effects on one another, structuring how members understand themselves, each other, and their positions in society and the cosmos. This panel invites papers that analyze the various articulations of gendered identities in African (and Afro-diasporic) societies and religious traditions as well as the ramifications of these notions of gender. In recognition of the fact that analysis, and critique, of the masculine has frequently gone undertheorized, we also welcome papers that foreground discourse on gender that is not limited to embodiments of women and womanhood, and necessarily engage plural understandings and articulations of gender, including masculinities among others.

As the ramifications of the global pandemic continue to unfold, the toll of the pandemic on bodies and practices of presence and absence grow ever more pronounced. Namely, how are indigenous religions finding avenues to reclaim ritual spaces that rearticulate solidarity within novel constraints on physical presence? The importance of mourning in moments where gathering and collective ritual action are challenging, if not impossible, are coupled with the renegotiation and shifting of gender roles in providing care and accompaniment. The African Religions Unit welcomes proposals addressing how indigenous religions are shifting to adapt, accommodate, or retain practices of grieving. As women often occupy a unique position in indigenous cosmologies, at times embodying the link between this world and others, proposals that articulate the specific positions and powers of women in indigenous cosmologies and how they shape ritual processes are particularly welcome. Possible papers for this panel could engage ideas around grief, funerary rites, comprehensions of death and mourning, and ways in which communities are reconceiving of solidarity and community in light of the pandemic.

Rising sea levels, active volcanoes, surging floods, and raging fires. How do religious communities prepare for the future in a world facing such dire effects of natural disasters and climate change? This panel will focus on religion and natural disaster, with attention to how indigenous religious communities have long served as environmental activists and proponents of sustainable living. Without romanticizing the “resilience” of environmental victims in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, this panel will consider the structural accountability of Global North nations in climate disaster, and the environmental lessons to be learned from religious communities.

 

Closed to Submissions. 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 approaches 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, this session will 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. This session will focus on not only the legacy of their collective work and collaborations but also their forthcoming two volume collaborative project, Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in Trinidad, which will be published with Duke University Press in 2022. We hope this session will also offer space to 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, methodologies (e.g., ethnography, historical analysis, etc.) and onto-epistemologies have influenced their collegiality and their mentorship of proceeding generations in the field. 

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: https://africanreligionsgroup.wordpress.com/

Chairs

Steering Committee Members

Method

PAPERS

Review Process

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

Review Process Comments