Featured New AASR Executives

Dear AASR members,

We are writing you as co-chairs of the Nomination Committee for the new Executive of our Association.

Earlier this year, in March, we have written to you with our proposal of nominated candidates for the new Executive, following a process of consultation of the membership. This proposal was as follows:
• Office of President: Dr Damaris Parsitau (Egerton University, Kenya)
• Office of Vice President: Dr Abel Ugba (University of Leeds, UK)
• Office of General Secretary: Dr Nathanael Homewood (De Pauw University, USA)
• Office of Treasurer: Dr Sara Fretheim (University of Münster, Germany)
This proposal was sent in an email to the membership and was published on the AASR website. It was also supposed to be published in the AASR Bulletin, but as a result of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, publication of the Bulletin has been delayed. Our apologies for that, but we trust you appreciate the circumstances.

In our earlier communication we invited counter-nominations to be submitted by 22 July 2020. This date has now passed, and we have not received any submissions.
In the absence of counter-candidates, our above nomination was supposed to be affirmed at the IAHR quinquennial World Congress in New Zealand in August 2020. However, the IAHR Congress has been cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
For the sake of the smooth, continued functioning of our Association, the election must proceed. This is also the position taken by the IAHR for their own elections.

As Nominations Committee we had already proposed that in the absence of counter-candidates, an (online) vote would not be necessary. This is in line with the IAHR Constitution and the IAHR Rules of Procedure, which the AASR Constitution is based upon, which in Rule 16g states: ‘Those whose candidacy is unopposed shall be declared “elected unopposed”.’ Following these considerations, and in consultation with the current Executive of our Association, we are pleased to declare our nominated candidates for the new Executive to be ‘elected unopposed’. The official handover of duties will be on 23 August 2020, which is when the IAHR Congress was originally set to begin.

We trust that you will join us in warmly congratulating Dr Parsitau, Dr Ugba, Dr Homewood and Dr Fretheim on their election, and will offer your support to the new Executive as they lead our Association in the coming five years.
We further trust that you will join us in expressing our sincere thanks to the members of the outgoing Executive, in particular the departing members, Professor Elias Bongmba and Dr Corey Williams. Together with the members who continue to serve on the new Executive – Dr Parsitau and Dr Ugba – they have provided visionary leadership to our Association, and we owe them our gratitude and respect.

Herewith we have completed the task entrusted to us as Nomination Committee. We thank you for your confidence in us.

Sincerely,

Co-chairs:
Professor Njoki Wane
Professor Adriaan van Klinken

Also on behalf of our committee members:
Dr Rose Mary Amenga-Etego
Dr Chammah Kaunda
Professor Danoye Oguntola-Laguda

Update: Virtual Conference, July 21-23

Dear Colleagues,

At our March 24 General Meeting, it was announced that the AASR will host a virtual conference this summer from July 21-23, 2021. This conference will include the AASR Women’s Caucus launch, a keynote address from the AASR President, and opportunities for Graduate Students and Early Career Scholars. Please find the Call for Papers for Graduate Students and Early Career Scholars linked here.

If you are not a graduate student or early career scholar, there are still plenty of opportunities:
– please pass the cfp onto eligible colleagues
– please consider volunteering as a mentor (email me at nathanaelhomewood@depauw.edu if interested)
– attend the sessions during the conference and provide constructive feedback

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t thank those who have been diligent in paying their dues and remind everyone that doing so crucially contributes to the vitality of our Association.

Sincerely,
Nathanael J. Homewood
AASR General Secretary

Remembering Rev. Dr. Melissa D. Browning

Dear AASR friends,

Rev. Dr. Melissa D. Browning

With deep pain, we share the devastating news that long-standing AASR member Rev. Dr. Melissa D. Browning passed away on April 8th, 2021, after living courageously and to the fullest while fighting cancer for the past several years. She leaves behind her husband, Wes Browning, and their daughter, Olivia. 

Much beloved by her family, friends, community members, students, and colleagues near and far, she played a substantial role in our Association for many years, serving with dedication and integrity. This included serving on the Executive Committee as Assistant Secretary General and Webmaster (2010–2015), for which her husband Wes generously provided technical expertise and web support and continued to do for several years following the conclusion of Melissa’s tenure. As Asst. Secretary General, Melissa served meritoriously and in many instances did the “heavy lifting,” always with grace, cheerfulness, and selflessness. 

Melissa was Interim Director of Contextual Education and International Partnerships at Columbia Theological Seminary and is remembered as an outstanding feminist theologian, ethicist, and activist, with long-standing connections in East Africa and the rest of the world. Melissa’s teaching, community activism, and scholarship, and especially her bold book Risky Marriage: HIV and Intimate Relationships in Tanzania (Lexington 2013), remain a testament to her intelligence and humanity. AASR members remember her as an incredibly pleasant and personable colleague who was deeply loved and admired by many, and a consistently hardworking colleague who did much to build and strengthen the Association. 

You can read more about Melissa’s life and work here, while her personal blog may be found here https://posthope.org/mbrowning.

We remember her family in these moments as they grapple with this painful loss. May the richness of the joy and hope that Melissa offered the world so graciously be an inspiration; and may we as an Association continue to honor her legacy of service, energy, dedication, and love for Africa.

Rest in power, Melissa!

Update: Please read Rev. Dr. Melissa D. Browning’s full obituary here. Details on donations and tributes among others can also be found here https://www.melissabrowning.com/.

Call for Papers: Graduate Students and Early Career Scholars in AASR

The AASR is committed to mentoring graduate students and early career scholars. To this end, we invite graduate students and early career scholars writing about religions of Africa to apply for the mentorship programme. Early career is defined as those who have earned a Ph.D. in the past five years and those who are yet to secure a continuous teaching or research position. To indicate your interest, please submit a.) a 250-word abstract outlining a project you are working on or intend to work on b.) a 250-word bio that includes what you would hope to gain through mentorship, and c.) an abridged CV (two-page maximum).

Please, send these documents to the secretary-general of the AASR, Dr. Nathanael Homewood, at nathanaelhomewood@depauw.edu or secretary@a-asr.org. The deadline is 1 May 2021 by 5:00 PM WAT. Upon review, submissions will receive a response by 15 May 2021.

Those selected will present a 5-7 minute paper on their current project or project proposal at the July 21-23, 2021 AASR Virtual Conference. This project can be at any stage and most certainly does not need to be completed. The goal is to create a space where even nascent ideas can be shared and receive constructive and encouraging input and feedback from members of the association. The experience will demystify the professional presentation and promote mentorship in a context where every question is valued. You will be required to send a draft of your presentation by the beginning of July so potential mentors can have access to it before the virtual conference.

After the conference, each presenter will be paired with a senior scholar who will provide mentorship and advice on the project and career advancement and opportunities more broadly. This mentorship will include a one-on-one session after the presentation, with the possibility of an ongoing relationship.

AASR Update: Upcoming Events

Dear Colleagues,
I want to draw your attention to several upcoming events that we hope you will consider participating in.

Save the Date: On March 24 at 4 pm GMT we will host a virtual AASR General Meeting. A Zoom link and agenda will be provided closer to the date, but we kindly ask that you plan to join us as the new-ish executive shares updates and plans for the next few years.

AAR Call for Papers: You can find the AASR cfp for the 2021 AAR Annual Meeting here. The submission deadline is March 1, 2021, at 5 pm EST. We encourage members to submit proposals for these and the many other panels that create space for conversation about religion(s) in Africa.

Leeds University Short Term Virtual Fellowships: For association members based at African institutions, Leeds University is offering short-term virtual research fellowships to consider “African Knowledges for Global Challenges.” Those interested can find more information here.

Finally, this is a friendly reminder for all members to make sure to renew your membership for 2021. The improved Association website makes it easy to do so. Further, the executive has decided that 2021 fees are “pay what you are able”, ensuring, in light of the global pandemic, that membership is accessible to everyone.

Sincerely,
Nathanael J. Homewood
AASR General Secretary

Letter from AASR Treasurer

20 January 2021
 
Dear AASR Members,
 
Warm greetings and a Happy New Year to each of you!
 
As the Treasurer, with a new Executive committee and a new year, I wanted to take the opportunity to draw your attention to Membership Fees and Finances for the year ahead, with the reminder that it is time to renew your membership for 2021. In the midst of a challenging and uncertain period globally, we have decided to take an unusual step: just for this year, we would like to offer you the opportunity to “pay what you are able” for your memberships rather than charging set fees. We recognise that some may have lost or had their employment/salaries reduced, while for others, job opportunities may be diminished. However, we believe that now more than ever, it is important for us as an Association to come together as scholars and colleagues, and we do not want finances to be an impediment to anyone’s participation. And for those of you who have not yet joined us, this is a great opportunity to do so at whatever cost is affordable to you!
 
As a guideline for your donation, our fee structure is:
 
Scholars from the Global North: 
Fully employed: $60 USD
Students/Retirees/Underemployed: $30 USD
 
Scholars from the Global South: 
Fully employed: $50 USD
Students/Retirees/Underemployed: $25 USD
 
However, in the spirit of “paying what you can,” we equally want to invite those who are able, to consider paying more than these suggested fees. For those who wish to support the AASR as patrons, we invite donations starting at $100 USD.
 
It is important to clarify that we are not taking this step from the position of over-abundance; indeed, our finances are a point of urgent concern and an area where we are focused on building capacity over the next five years. One significant cost we are currently facing is investing in a much-needed upgraded website and technical infrastructure, at the cost of approximately $1500, with some additional annual fees. This will enable us to expand and streamline our global reach while making it easier for members to join/renew and register for events. Additionally, with the need for greater online accessibility, we are pleased that these upgrades will soon enable us to offer more members-only benefits such as topical webinars, access to publications, “zoom coffee with the President,” and more! Please continue to check our website (https://www.a-asr.org/) or follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@AASReligions) for updates on these developments.
 
In closing, may I say that we are grateful to each one of you, our members, for your support and partnership. We can’t do it without you, and we look forward to working together with you in the months and years ahead to achieve greater financial stability for our Association.
 
 
Sincerely,
 
Sara Fretheim, Treasurer
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