Entanglements of informality and religion in African cities

Benjamin Kirby (University of Leeds)
Ini Dele-Adedeji (University of York)
Room 31
Session slots:
Wednesday 12 June, 16:15 - 18:00

Short abstract:

This panel investigates entanglements of economic informality and urban religion in different African cities, spotlighting in particular the political stakes of these intersections.

Long abstract:

The rapid expansion of African cities in recent years has coincided with a steep rise of informal commercial activity, due in no small part to neoliberal economic restructuring programmes. As the social and cultural landscapes of these cities have been profoundly reordered in recent decades, it is notable that their religious lives have become increasingly dynamic: Lagos, Kinshasa, Dar es Salaam, Cairo, and many other diverse cities across the African continent have experienced new dynamics of religious innovation which are shaping urban publics, built environments, and street cultures. This panel focuses on the intersection of informality and religion in African cities, spotlighting how Christian, Muslim, and other religious practices of devotion and affiliation number among the ordinary strategies that urban majorities employ to secure livelihood and protection amidst conditions of uncertainty. Put differently, the panel explores what new insights emerge when religious practices are taken seriously as everyday practices that assist people in navigating highly complex and shifting urban environments and modes of sociality. What are the political stakes of these intersections between economic informality and urban religion across different religious traditions and urban settings? What theoretical and methodological challenges do they introduce? To what extent do connections between religious subjectivities and modes of commercial activity constitute a continuation or rupture with longstanding patterns of urbanisation across the African continent, particularly with regard to the interface of "formality" and "informality"? This panel encourages contributions that offer empirically-grounded and comparative perspectives on such entanglements across the African continent.