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Looking Back into Religious Futures: Dynamics of Resilience and Mutation in African Religionscapes (1/3)

Panel Chair: Afe Adogame | Monday, August 24, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

The historical and cultural significance of African religious traditions can be partly discerned in their dynamism, plurality and multivocality in Africa and the African diaspora. Religious vitality and revitalization are very pronounced, just as African religiosities negotiate resilience, transformation and change in a fast globalizing era. The internationalization of African religions and spiritualities therefore opens new challenges about their nature, scope and identity; issues of terminology, originality, and authenticity; but also renewed contestations of resilience, continuity and change between local/global contexts. This panel interrogates how the sustained mutual encounter, influence and interaction between indigenous and exogenous religions including Christianity, Islam, eastern and western-related spiritualities, that characterize Africa’s religious landscape, continue to (re)produce old and new religious constellations. The panel will also explore how and to what extent the global dimension of African religions and spiritualities, introduced to new geo-cultural contexts through migration and media technologies, is manifesting in varied forms

Ezra Chitando

Consulting Indigenous Healers on Skype! Patterns of Change and Continuity in African Indigenous Religions

One of the major challenges in the academic study of African Indigenous Religions (AIRs) has been the quest for accurate, value-free terminologies. This quest has become urgent within the postcolonial context. Theological, ideological and political concerns have affected the search for neutral labels in the academic study of AIRs. The contention that AIRs are “traditional” has generated considerable scholarly debate. On the one hand are scholars who contend that the descriptor is apt as it captures the long past that is associated with these religions. On the other hand are scholars who maintain that such as a concept has negative connotations. This paper seeks to acknowledge the value of both positions, while arguing that both positions need to appreciate the factors of dynamism and change in AIRs. Utilizing the specific case of Zimbabwean indigenous healers, who are often regarded as the custodians of AIRs, the paper highlights the profound changes that have occurred within the field of indigenous healing. However, it also identifies patterns of continuity

Genevieve Nrenzah

Religion Crossing Boundaries: A Contemporary Ghanaian Indigenous Religious Experience

Recently modern mass media forms has presented the platform for a new crop of indigenous religious priests/priestesses in Ghana to cross the boundaries of Ghana to elsewhere with the aim of internationalizing indigenous religious spirituality. What seems to be intriguing is their attempt abroad to ‘evangelize’ non-Ghanaians with the indigenous spirituality. This paper discusses the trend in which indigenous religious priests establish links overseas and the various strategies they employ in reaching out to potential clientele. Drawing from the personality and strategies used by Kwaku Bonsam, I argue that recent public activities employed by neo indigenous priests in Ghana to reach new clientele and new publics in and outside of Ghana suggest the rejuvenation of indigenous religions.

Denzil Chetty

Connective-Churches: Case Study of South African Mega-Churches Redefining their Identity, Social Presence and Local Discourses within a Digital Era

Over the past decade, we have seen the rapid advancements of technology transform not just the social and economic landscape, but also the religious landscape of South Africa. One of the major religious proponents advocating this transformation has been the mega-churches. These churches epitomize modes of communicating and networking in a digital era. This paper probes how the contemporary integration of technology in South African mega-churches are redefining identity, social presence and local discourses within the broader global context. In order to attain the above, this paper draws on a case study of four mega-churches in South Africa that are representative of four different geographical regions as well as social-economic classes. This paper concludes by postulating a new category of churches, which I term “connective churches” that offer alternative models of identity, social presence, and local discourses, by maintaining its geo-cultural context and localized traits within a digitalized global milieu.

Emily Mogase

The presentation of African religions by West African journalists from 1890 – 1930

According to the African historian E.A. Ayandele, the press was an important instrument in the formation of African nationalism. Especially since the 1880’s, members of the African elite had established their own journals, newspapers and magazines. One recurrent theme which they addressed was religion, and since the turn of the century there was a heightened interest in African religions. Some of the African journalists experimented with the use of African indigenous religions as a basis for African nationalism and African identity markers. The early African journalists were among the first writers to portray a positive picture of African indigenous religions other than barbaric and pagan. The paper analyzes how African religions were constructed and interpreted during this period; and investigates how this concept of African indigenous religions influenced later research, with special attention paid to the aspect of cognitive interaction and the formation of a national "indigenous public sphere".


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