Research workshop “Theory from the South: Africa as a Site for Understanding Contemporary Religion”

On 25-26 January 2018, the University of Leeds hosts a research workshop on the theme  “Theory from the South: Africa as a Site for Understanding Contemporary Religion”.

The workshop opens on Thursday 25 January with a public research seminar where Birgit Meyer (Utrecht University) will talk about “Studying Religion in and from Africa”. This seminar starts at 5pm and is open to all. For more details, see here.

The workshop continues in a closed setting on Friday 26 February, with six scholars presenting their research:

  • Marloes Janson (SOAS University of London): The Pluriform Religious Field in Lagos (Nigeria): From ‘Researching On’ to ‘Researching With’.
  • Charles Prempeh (University of Cambridge): A Sociological Analysis of Muslim-Christian Marriages in Zongo Communities in Accra, Ghana.
  • Elaine Christian (University of Kent): African Theology as Theory and Action.
  • Eleanor Tiplady Higgs (SOAS University of London): The Marginalisation of African, Gender-Critical, Theological Scholarship in Anglophone/Western Gender Studies.
  • Nathanael J. Homewood (Rice University, Texas): Sexual Expressivity and Creativity in the Church:  The Postcolonial Possibilities of Studying Sex and Religion in Africa.
  • Adriaan van Klinken (University of Leeds): Queer Theory from the South: Lesbian Sangomas’ Understanding of Religion, Sexuality and Embodiment.

If you are interested in attending the workshop, please contact Dr Adriaan van Klinken, a.vanklinken[@]leeds.ac.uk.

About the theme

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.

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