Theory from the South: Africa as a Site for Understanding Contemporary Religion
Research workshop with
Professor Birgit Meyer, Utrecht University
Dr Marloes Janson, SOAS University of London
Dr Adriaan van Klinken, University of Leeds
Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS)
and the Leeds Centre for Religion and Public Life (CRPL)
25-26 January 2018
Western theories and methods have often been uncritically applied in African contexts in order to make sense of African social, cultural and religious ideas and practices. The problematic history of European imperialism in the academic study of religion in Africa has been well-documented and critiqued (Chidester 1996, 2014), and the adequacy of theoretical and methodological tools originating from the West to understand contemporary religion in Africa has been interrogated in a quest for acknowledging ‘African traditions in the study of religion in Africa’ (Adogame, Chitando & Bateye 2012, 2013). Building on these bodies of scholarship, and engaging with more general calls for the decolonisation of knowledge produced about Africa, this research workshop takes up in particular the challenge posed by Jean and John Comaroff (2012) to think about Africa as a site where new knowledge, theories and methods are generated (rather than merely applied). It specifically aims to explore the question how the study of contemporary religion in Africa both requires and enables us to develop innovative theoretical and methodological perspectives that provide critical insight into the nature, manifestations, and effects of “religion” in our contemporary world.
The workshop starts with a public seminar by Professor Birgit Meyer on Thursday 25 January (5-7pm) with the title “Studying Religion in and from Africa”. On Friday 26 January, the programme continues with presentations by other participants. The workshop will be small-scale, informal and interactive, with sufficient time for discussion and feedback. Limited places are available. Participation in the workshop is free, but participants will need to cover their own travelling and accommodation costs.
We invite proposals, especially from PhD students and early-career researchers, who are keen to participate and present their research in relation to the above questions. Please submit a title, a 200 words abstract, and a short bio statement before 22 November by email to Dr Adriaan van Klinken, A.vanKlinken@leeds.ac.uk.