What are the great debates in the academic study of Africana religions? The Journal of Africana Religions invites 150-word proposals for a special issue on the simmering, essential, and revelatory debates in our field. Such debates may be implicit or explicit. Prospective authors will define and analyze the debates that they think are worth exploring.

The modern European study of religion was born in the colonial and imperial encounters among Africana people, colonial officials, and imperial theorists such as E. B. Tylor, and Africana religions not only provided raw data for the making of religious studies but also constituted a discourse whose terms became essential to various modern fields of knowledge. Since then, debates about Africana religions have been essential to the modern humanities and social sciences and to their application beyond the academy. See, for example, the notable brouhaha between Melville J. Herskovits and E. Franklin Frazier on whether African-descended people in the Americas retained African cultural traits, which became important to public policy-making, national identity, and ethnic solidarity.

What twenty-first century debates are essential in the study of Africana religions? Illustrative questions might include:

  1. Are Africana religions an impediment or asset to social development, gender equity, and political liberation? Outline the major scholarly positions on this question.
  2. Does the study of Africana religions sometimes privilege Orisha devotion or other indigenous religions as authentically African, even as the vast majority of Africana peoples practice Christianity or Islam?
  3. What is the state of the field in understanding the concept of the Africana religious diaspora—how has this debate changed over time, what are its main arguments now, and where does the debate seem to be going?
  4. The field is often divided along disciplinary lines. What debates are explicit or implicit in theological, anthropological, sociological, historical, literary, and comparative religious accounts of Africana religions?
  5. What are the disagreements among scholars on the continent, in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, and how do geography and power shape the very definition of what counts as an academic argument?
  6. How have modernity, tradition, and primitivity functioned as complicated categories for Africana religious identity, experience, and scholarship? How has technology shaped Africana religious experience and the interpretation of Africana religious cultures?

Proposals are due on February 15, 2019 to journal@africanareligions.org. Final essays of 5,000 words in length are due on August 15, 2019. All essays will be peer-reviewed. Questions? Email the journal or tweet @jafricanarelig.


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