Rel01
Religious activism and disrupted social relations: exploring religion and alienation in Africa

Convenors:
Rijk van Dijk (Leiden University)
Thomas G. Kirsch (University of Konstanz)
Stream:
Religion
Location:
Chrystal McMillan, Seminar Room 2
Session slots:
1
Thursday 13 June, 16:15 - 18:00

Short abstract:

In Africa today, religious groups are adopting activist registers of discourse and practice. Claiming to heal social divisions, they also produce new social asymmetries. The panel addresses the uneasy coexistence of these facets of religious activism: its integrative power and its disruptive effects

Long abstract:

In many places in Africa today, religious groups are increasingly adopting activist registers of discourse and practice in their attempts to (re)define the place of religion in society. Often, such religious activism is addressing matters of sexual health & rights, relationships, social inequality and environmental issues. In the majority of cases, religious activists do so against the backdrop of their perception that social realities are rife with tensions and misalignments, and that people's life-worlds thus need to be transformed in divinely ordained ways. In order to do so, religious activists engage with certain groups of people, connecting with them in new ways and establishing new forms of sociality. In this process, however, certain other groups of people are either deliberately or inadvertently "disconnected", left out, alienated, which in itself is marking a new repositioning of religion in African societies. In other words, while religious activism often claims to aim at the "common good" and to overcome social divisions, it is at the same time producing new social asymmetries and inequalities in society on the basis of proclaiming and following certain tenets of faith. The panel invites contributions based on ethnographic findings from different parts of Africa and relating to different religious traditions that address the uneasy coexistence of these two dimensions of religious activism: its integrative power and forms of community-building on the one hand, and its divisive and socially disruptive effects on the other.