Evanston, Illinois, — “This journal,” declared Dr. Cornel West, “signifies a rich coming-of-age in the study of African and African Diasporic studies.”
West was reacting to news that the Journal of Africana Religions, the world’s first and only English-language journal to examine black religions in global perspective, will be published quarterly in both print and electronic form by Pennsylvania State University Press starting in January, 2013.
ASWAD, the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, will co-sponsor the journal, and members will receive a free online subscription.
ASWAD’s director, Prof. Kim D. Butler, thinks JOAR will be critical to correcting past misrepresentations of black religions. “The Journal of Africana Religions is a welcome addition to scholarship on a vitally important aspect of African Diaspora experience, and the spiritual underpinnings of much of the Western world,” she said.
“It’s an exciting and much-needed scholarly development,” said Princeton Professor Judith Weisenfeld, who is a member of the journal’s 34-member international editorial board. The board includes historians, anthropologists, sociologists, literature scholars, and religious studies scholars from Africa, Europe, and the Americas. In addition, it boasts the presence of ASWAD’s founder, Michael Gomez.
The journal will focus on the religious experiences and expressions of African-descended people across the globe and will explore religious traditions influenced by the diverse cultural heritage of Africa.
“That this comparative discussion will take place across a range of religions, regions, and methodological perspectives makes it a unique intellectual project in the study of African and diaspora religions,” Weisenfeld added.
Board member and University of Wisconsin Professor James Sweet called the journal “an exciting project with truly ‘game changing’ implications.”
Institutional sponsors of the journal include Northwestern University and the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. The journal’s editorial offices will be located at Northwestern.
“We are thrilled to have the support of so many of our colleagues and some great institutions,” said founding co-editors Sylvester A. Johnson, Associate Professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University, and Edward E. Curtis IV, Millennium Chair of the Liberal Arts and Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).
“Africana religions represent an irreplaceable component of humanity’s religious heritage,” they proclaimed, “and it’s well past the time for a scholarly journal devoted to their study.”
Johnson explained that the understanding of Africana religions has been hampered in the past by a severing of African Diasporic religions from the study of religion on the African continent. “Now, focusing on the connections and disconnections among Africana religions across national and regional lines has become a normative standard for scholarly excellence,” he said.
Curtis emphasized the journal’s inclusive scope. “It’s not our job to argue for one authentic and authoritative black religious experience,” he explained. “We are going to look at it all–the religious experiences of African-descended Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists, as well as those who follow Yoruba, Nuer, San, or ancient Egyptian religious traditions.”