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Looking Back into Religious Futures: Dynamics of Resilience and Mutation in African Religionscapes (2/3)

Panel Chair: Afe Adogame | Monday, August 24, 3:30-5:30 p.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

Ignatius Swart

Making a contribution? Africa and African scholarship in the new debate on religion and development

In the broad field of development studies new conceptual spaces are opening to advance a sociological debate about the potential and actual significance of religion and religious actors in realizing the ideals of development. Against the backdrop of this identification and my own interest in exploring the theoretical and conceptual relevance of the new flourishing scholarly debate on religion and development for my own South African and African context, in this paper my aim will be to more closely examine how and to what extent a focus pertinent to the African continent and its multiple societies features in and is making a contribution to the larger debate. In particular, through an exploration of the existing literature and in view of my overall aim I will address questions about: a. actual authorship (in the light of the current domination of the overall debate by scholarship from the global North); b. pertinent themes, concerns and approaches that are emerging from the African contribution to the debate; c. the way and extent to which such themes, concerns and approaches are related to key issues and themes in the broader religion and development debate; and d. the way in which such themes, concerns and approaches are in turn acknowledged in selected key contributions in the broader debate

Maggie Gitau

Confronting the perceptions of extraversion in a middle-class church in Nairobi: Mavuno Church’s efforts to cultivate a differentiated identity

Mavuno church is a middle-class congregation in Nairobi that has grown from about four hundred members to about six thousand members in a period of eight years. One of the challenges that leadership in this church faces is the claim that it is patterned after successful mega churches from other contexts. Transnational availability of media, information, literature and conferencing technologies as well as ease of international travel in the modern world lend a degree of credence to these claims. In response, Mavuno church leadership has built a localized identity that nevertheless can be identified with a globalized culture. Mavuno intentionally designs, brands and delivers its curricular material, events, sermons and activities to reflect the demographics of its congregants, their urban environment and the church’s sense of God’s mission for the African city. This paper explores how Mavuno builds, cultivates and negotiates this differentiated identity.

Obaji Agbiji

Dynamics of Resilience and Mutation in African Religionscapes: The Role of Agents of Desecularisation from above and below

This paper will engage two sociological concepts namely: capital paradigm and the gift theory to describe resources derived from Christian religious participation and belief among migrant Africans and the African diaspora; and how both the generation and utilization of these resources is giving impetus to religious vitality, resilience and mutation in a globalizing era. Very importantly, the paper will interrogate the role of the agents of desecularisation from above and below in the generation of religious resources and in what way(s) this leads to the perpetuation of the dynamics of resilience and mutation in African Religionscapes. Also of equal importance, the paper will investigate if there is intentionality in the pursuit of the benefits that religion offers by African migrants or if the benefits are an integral component of the African religious universe initially evinced by African traditional religion and as such by-products of being part of that universe?

Danoye Laguda

Interrogating Dynamic Nature of African Religion in the age of Globalization

The pristine African traditional Religion seem to have witnessed various trends between resilience and change due to globalization among other factors. In this paper we seek to argue that the pristine African Traditional religion has continued to undergo transformation on the continent and even in the African diaspora owing partly to globalization. Adherents as well as leaders have reinvented various religious practices and beliefs in the face of social change. The situation has changed the perception and practice of indigenous religions going into the future. Further we seek to demonstrate using both historical and analytic methods that globalization as well as influx of “foreign” religions into the African continent are twin factors that altered the very fabric of indigenous religions. We shall use the Ijo Orunmila (ATO), a neo-Pentecostal African indigenous group in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria as a case study.


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