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New “Religious Revitalizations” Lecture Series


This fall, the Council on African Studies (CAS) and Center for Transnational Cultural Analysis launched the speaker series, “Contemporary Religious Revitalizations: The Making of Subjectivity in Africa and Beyond.” The series, supported by the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Fund, has brought together leading scholars to speak to the renewed and growing interest in religion in Africa. This semester’s speakers have included Noah Salomon, Post-Graduate Associate in Middle Eastern Studies at Yale; Jacob Olupona, Professor of Divinity and African American Studies at Harvard University; Benjamin Soares, Senior Researcher at the African Studies Centre in Leiden; Ousmane Kane, Associate Professor of International Affairs at Columbia University; and Elias Bongmba, Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. The series has generated fruitful conversations about contemporary transformations in Sudan, Nigeria, Senegal, and beyond.

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The speaker series is part of the Council’s broader “Religious Revitalizations” working group, which aims to foster critical analysis of the rapid religious recompositions taking place in Africa. Through lectures and workshops, it will address the continent’s new scales of religious organization, new directional flows of influence, assertive new theologies, and intensified public religious presences.

The “Religious Revitalizations” working group is one of three thematic groups launched by CAS this fall. The other two, “Dialectics of Transformation: Social and Economic Materialities” and “Transformations of Language and Identity in Contemporary Africa,” have also held lecture series.

The thematic groups are part of a larger three-year initiative led by the CAS’ new Chair and Professor of Anthropology, Kamari M. Clarke, to revitalize the African Studies program. “Our goal is to expand the Council’s capacity to develop relevant research, learning, and collaborative opportunities at Yale,” Professor Clarke explained. “We believe that innovative analytic and teaching approaches will be necessary in order to bring contemporary African realities into sharper focus.” Council members are excited about the growing interest the groups have generated as faculty and students participate in interdisciplinary conversations. With reference to the “Religious Revitalization” series, Professor Clarke observed of this semester’s invited guests, “Through their talks and the ensuing dialogues, they have helped us clarify the research directions we will want to pursue as we address this timely topic.”

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(From left): Brenda Kombo (PhD candidate, Yale Anthropology), Omolade Adunbi (PhD candidate, Yale Anthropology), Ousmane Kane (Professor of International Affairs, Columbia University), Noah Salomon (Post-graduate Associate, Yale Middle Eastern Studies), Michael Degani (Graduate student, Anthropology), and Mohamed Rafiq (MA student, Yale African Studies).