African Religions sessions at AAR 2019

Sessions sponsored by the African Religions Unit

A23-210: Religious Politics, Governance, and Citizenship in Africa

David Amponsah, University of Pennsylvania, Presiding

Saturday – 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Convention Center-28B (Upper Level East)

The question of religion and politics remains a pertinent one and gains new salience in the ever-changing African religious and political landscapes. The papers in this session provide a critical analysis of issues at the intersection of religion, politics, governance, and citizenship in contemporary Africa. Together, they contribute to advancing the conceptualization of the complex intersections between religious thought and practice, on the one hand, and structures of governance and the performance of political leadership; and citizenship and belonging, on the other.

Ayodeji Ogunnaike, Harvard University: Separation of Tradition and State: Yoruba Sacred Kings, Governance, and Religion

Dorcas Dennis, Saint Lawrence University: “You Can Be a Citizen of Mars”: “Token of Passport” Rituals, International Migrations, and Ghana’s Neo-Prophetics

Jakub Urbaniak, Saint Augustine College of South Africa and Tshinyalani Khorommbi, Saint Augustine College of South Africa: Religion, Political Leadership, and Governance: Christianity’s Role in the Rise and Fall of Jacob Zuma

Lee-Shae Scharnick-Udemans, University of the Western Cape: The State of Religion in South Africa: Negotiating Diversity and Deviance

A23-405: Studying Religion with Achille Mbembe

Devaka Premawardhana, Emory University, Presiding

Saturday – 5:30 PM-7:00 PM

Convention Center-15A (Mezzanine Level)

The Cameroonian philosopher and political theorist, Achille Mbembe, has become a leading public intellectual and a prominent thinker, not just in Cameroon and in South Africa (where he is currently based) or across the African continent, but in fact worldwide. His writings, in particular his two main books De la postcolonie (2000; transl. On the Postcolony, 2001) and Critique de la raison nègre (2013; transl. Critique of Black Reason, 2017), have shaped debates in postcolonial studies, African studies, political theory, critical theory, and continental philosophy. The papers in this panel engage Mbembe’s work and thinking, and explores its implications for the study of religion and for theological thought in the Africana world and beyond.

Emmanuel Buteau, Haitian Institute of Atlanta: Black Reason within the Bounds of Religion: Achille Mbembe and Haitian Religion

David Ngong, Stillman College: Honor and Bondage in African Politics: Rethinking Contemporary African Political Theology

Laura Grillo, Georgetown University: Mbembe’s Matrix and the Matri-Archive: The “Little Secret” to Conjuring Away the Postcolonial Spell

A25-206: Healing, Health, and Care in African Christianities

African Religions Unit and World Christianity Unit

Teresia Mbari Hinga, Santa Clara University, Presiding

Monday – 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Hilton Bayfront-Cobalt 502B (Fifth Level)

This panel addresses issues of healing, health, and care in African Christianities, while contributing to ongoing conversations concerning gender, digital media, migration, the intersection of the sacred and the secular, and the anthropology of ethics. The first paper, centered on the experiences of Pentecostal Christians in the Nigerian diaspora who participate in worship through online ministries, considers the potential of the internet to mitigate against anxieties concerning stigmas relating to gender and migration status. The second analyzes the formation narratives of grassroots nonprofit leaders in Uganda and explores the ways in which these leaders earn the trust of their partners, supporters, and beneficiaries. The third calls attention to how the Kenyan staff at a Catholic medical clinic in Nairobi navigate the competing moral demands rooted in Catholic teaching on sexual and reproductive health, on the one hand, and in their awareness of the practical needs of the community they serve.

Emmy Corey, Emory University: The Dilemmas of Distribution: Engaging the Transcendent through Practices of Care at Amani Clinic

Nicolette Manglos-Weber, Boston University: Reasons to Trust: Community Caregivers and the Religious Ecology of Uganda

Emily Crews, University of Chicago: Miracles on the Margins: Digital Technology, Healing Rituals, and Gendered Embodiment in the African Christian Diaspora

Business Meeting African Religions unit:

Adriaan van Klinken, University of Leeds

David Amponsah, University of Pennsylvania

Other sessions relevant to African Religions

P25-100Engaging the Work of Sanneh

African Association for the Study of Religions

Esther Acolatse, University of Toronto, Presiding

Monday – 9:00 AM-11:30 AM

Convention Center-11B (Upper Level West)

In light of his recent passing, this panel presents papers that engage the legacy and impact of Lamin Sanneh. Papers interact with his work on a variety of topics including his approach to the relationship between Islam and Christianity in Africa, his influence in the creation of the field of World Christianity and its cultural boundaries and, his contribution to the field of missions in his concept of translatability of the Gospel and whether translatability should be assumed.

Cyril Orji, University of Dayton: The Intercultural Hermeneutics of Lamin Sanneh

Tim Hartman, Columbia Theological Seminary: “Theology Cannot Go on Subsisting on the Legacy of Rented Pews”: Sanneh’s Legacy of Translation and Collaboration amid the Changing Face of World Christianity

Michael J. McClymond, Saint Louis University: Should Translatability Be Assumed? Sunnah’s Thesis and the Problem of the Divine Names in Intercultural Contexts

David Ngong, Stillman College: Domination and Resistance: Lamin Sanneh, Eboussi Boulaga, and the Reinterpretation of Christianity in Africa


Elias Kifon Bongmba, Rice University

Business Meeting AASR:

Elias Kifon Bongmba, Rice University

Corey Williams, Leiden University

A23-319: Books under Discussion – Kenyan, Christian, Queer: Religion, LGBT Activism, and Arts of Resistance in Africa by Adriaan van Klinken

Gay Men and Religion Unit and Religion and Sexuality Unit and African Association for the Study of Religions

Elaine Nogueira-Godsey, Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Presiding

Saturday – 3:30 PM-5:00 PM

Hilton Bayfront-Indigo 204B (Second Level)

This roundtable conversation on Adriaan van Klinken’s book Kenyan, Christian, Queer: Religion, LGBT Activism, and Arts of Resistance in Africa (to be published by Penn State University Press, 2019) brings together scholars whose areas of expertise and research focus lie at the intersection of African, religious and queer studies. van Klinken’s book is a most welcome contribution to explore and engage the complexities not only of the intersections of religion and sexuality in Africa, but importantly, of being human. The participants in the roundtable contribute with reflections and insights that attempt to move the conversation forward with regard to central themes, theories and methodologies that the book foreground and engage.


Elias Kifon Bongmba, Rice University

Sarojini Nadar, University of the Western Cape

Nathanael Homewood, Rice University

Nina Hoel, University of Oslo


Adriaan van Klinken, University of Leeds

A25-333: Books under Discussion – Pentecostal Conversion in Global Perspective: A Roundtable Discussion of Faith in Flux: Pentecostalism and Mobility in Rural Mozambique, by Devaka Premawardhana

Religious Conversions Unit

Marc Pugliese, Saint Leo University, Presiding

Monday – 3:30 PM-5:00 PM

Convention Center-11A (Upper Level West)

Scholars of religious conversion and global Pentecostalism will discuss Devaka Premawardhana’s recent book, Faith in Flux, which presents an original challenge to theories of religious conversion that have become prevalent in anthropological studies of world Christianity. The book is based on research in Mozambique (southern Africa), but panelists include scholars from a range of geographic, as well as disciplinary and theoretical, perspectives. Included are historians, anthropologists, and theologians, specialists of India, Nigeria, and the United States (one studying Native American and another studying African-American communities), and theorists of gender, embodiment, conflict, and identity. Panelists will discuss Faith in Flux in relation to their own influential research. The author will respond.


Judith Casselberry, Bowdoin College

Unregistered Participant

Nimi Wariboko, Boston University

Eliza Kent, Skidmore College


Devaka Premawardhana, Emory University

A24-205The Encounter of Digital Media and Ritual in African Diaspora Religions: The Redux

African Diaspora Religions Unit

Unregistered Participant, Presiding

Sunday – 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Hilton Bayfront-Aqua 310B (Third Level)

Continuing a vibrant conversation from the 2018 Annual Meeting, this panel explores ways in which practitioners of African diasporic religious traditions engage social media to discuss, represent and perform ritual work. Our participants will discuss the potentials and limitations of the digital experience of ritual in Africana religions, addressing such questions as: what opportunities does digital media represent for sacred communities in the African diaspora? And what are the ethical concerns that emerge from the use of platforms like Reddit, Skype, FaceTime, Instagram and WhatsApp?

Khytie Brown, Harvard University: Social Networking Is Spiritual Networking: Jamaican Revival Zion Religion in Digital Space

Megan Selander, University of Texas: Searching in Sacred Subreddits: The Usage of Reddit in African Diasporic Newcomers’ Spiritual Journeys

Business Meeting:

Rachel E. Harding, University of Colorado, Denver

A24-404Caribbean Intersections of African and Hindu Religious Diasporas

African Diaspora Religions Unit

Elana Jefferson-Tatum, Tufts University, Presiding

Sunday – 5:30 PM-7:00 PM

Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire D (Fourth Level)

Roundtable presentations will address interactions between African and Hindu diasporic ritual practices in the English-speaking Caribbean — via legislation rooted in the colonial era; gendered ceremonial subjectivities; and the orientalization of South Asian traditions in the West Indies. Papers examine continuities and complexities of Indian religious identity in majority-Black, multiracial societies, foregrounding questions of race, aesthetics, belonging and citizenship in postcolonial Jamaica, Antigua, and Trinidad.

Randy Goldson, Temple University: Legitimating and Contesting Hindu Religious Permutations in Jamaica

Khytie Brown, Harvard University: Hindu Princess, Revival Jezebel: Sensing the Indian Spiritual Nation in Jamaican Revival Zion Religion

Unregistered Participant: Obeah, Vagrancy, and Spiritual Fraud: The Relationship between African and Indian Religious Freedom in the 21st-Century Caribbean

A25-303Marking the the Maafa: Narratives, Experiences, and Embodiments of Slavery and Incarceration in African Diaspora Religion

African Diaspora Religions Unit and Afro-American Religious History Unit

Lerone Martin, Washington University, St. Louis, Presiding

Monday – 3:30 PM-5:00 PM

Hilton Bayfront-Sapphire 410A (Fourth Level)

Marking the 400th anniversary of 1619, the date of the first recorded landing of enslaved Africans in North America, this session examines slavery and incarceration in relationship to religion in the Afro-Atlantic Diaspora.

Katharine Gerbner, University of Minnesota: Constructing Religion, Defining Crime: Slavery, Power, and Epistemology

Ryne Beddard, University of North Carolina: Dismal: Excess and Taboo in an Antebellum Swamp

Brad Stoddard, McDaniel College: Christianity and Convict Labor in the Postbellum South


Rachel E. Harding, University of Colorado, Denver

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