International, Interdisciplinary Conference


Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora (UFJF) Brazil. 22-25 October 2018


The historical encounter of the African continent with the Arab and transatlantic slave trade, colonial/imperial histories and influences, was mostly characterized by exploitation and expropriation, dehumanization and human rights violations, but also the destruction of indigenous religions, cultural patterns, sacred sites and objects. European/Arab cultural imprints are also seen in the introduction of Christianity and Islam. This encounter has led, on the one hand, to the denigration of indigenous religions, resulting in the banning or abandonment of aspects of their cosmologies, ritual symbolism and practices. On the other hand, indigenous religions responded to social change leading to mutual influence, and revitalization of aspects of the indigenous religious cultures.

The significance of indigenous African religions and spirituality is partly demonstrated in their plurality in Africa and its diaspora historically and culturally. Migration, tourism and new media technologies has facilitated the introduction of African religions into new geo-cultural contexts. For instance, in Brazil, Candomblé and Umbanda have remained resilient in the face of racism, public criminalization; just as majority of Afro-Brazilians continue to encounter injustice and socio-political marginalization. Despite threats of survival and extinction, Africans and their descendants strive to preserve their cultural heritage and religious identity.

African and African-derived religions have continued to impact other societies and world religions, while they have been influenced by them as well. Brazil is home to the largest Black population (African diaspora) in the world, besides Nigeria. Brazil’s recent demographics show African-Brazilians in the majority for the first time, with 2010 census showing over 50.7% black/mixed race, compared to 47.7% white population (IBGE). Brazil is home to Candomblé and Umbanda, two of the largest African-derived religions. Brazilian Portuguese was richly influenced by people of African descent and their languages, even as a new Afro-Brazilian vocabulary emerged. Candomblé rituals have been incorporated into the fabric of Brazilian national identity from New Year’s Eve offerings to the ocean (Revellion), Capoeira dance, Samba (rodas) and culinary preferences such as Acarajé fritters. In Umbanda, there is a loose affinity of Roman Catholic saints with African and indigenous deities. Indigenous religions and African-derived religions have also shaped world art, sculpture, painting and other cultural artifacts, which populate the world’s famous museums, galleries, libraries, and art exhibitions. The commodification of African music, art and religious objects is on the increase. The character of indigenous and African-derived religions in conditions of globality will continue to be shaped by how and to what extent they negotiate continuity, identity, and change.

The resilience and dynamism of religions of Africa and its diaspora requires more scholarly attention in exploring how they are central to everyday lives of Africans and its descendants. A proper grasp of their complex religious cosmologies, traditions and cultures will improve understanding of African peoples and its descendants in conditions of globality. To what extent do religious worldviews and practices remain relevant for Africans and their descendants in the face of negative public perception? How can we synthesize indigenous belief systems and rituals into a reference and source book? What makes African indigenous and derived religions tick against the backdrop of xenophobia, socioeconomic deprivation? How and to what extent has African indigenous and derived religions shaped the local contexts, cultures and societies within which they are practiced; and how were they influenced by other religions and cultures globally? How do indigenous religions and African-derived religions respond to global issues of poverty, corruption, conflict, peace, religious freedom and climate change? The 2nd Global African Indigenous and Derived Religions Conference will seek to address these and related questions and issues, and will provide a significant platform for scholars, practitioners of African Indigenous Religions and African-derived religions, policy makers, diaspora community groups, NGOs and FBOs and interested publics to critically appraise the status, nature and role of global African Indigenous and Derived Religions within local-global religious landscapes. The Conference will explore varied approaches to the study of Africa’s Indigenous Religions with emphasis on regional and diasporic focus. It will discuss the inherent challenges faced by students and scholars in studying indigenous and African-derived religions globally. The conference also seeks to encourage scholarly research and explore avenues for the documentation and preservation of African indigenous and derived religions.

Conference sub-themes include:
Defining Indigenous Religions and African-derived religions
Indigeneity, tradition and authenticity
Indigenous knowledge systems and Indigenous methodologies
Racial politics, human rights and social justice
Indigene-ship, Citizenship and Land Rights
Identity construction and negotiation
African philosophy, worldviews, belief systems, rituals, festivals and ceremonies
Ritual studies; social organisation of African indigenous and derived religions
Media, Aesthetics and Material culture
Religious leadership, good governance and corruption
Gender and Power
Women and Youth
Diaspora formation
Poverty and sustainable development
African Indigenous/Derived religions and Political Economy
African Indigenous/Derived religions and Social Impact
NGOs, FBOs and Civil Society
Sources and Documentation of Global African Indigenous Religions
Indigenous peoples and environmental management
African indigenous religions, African derived religions, globalization and modernity

Paper/Panel abstract proposals; and Participation only form should be submitted via the conference website: All additional inquiries should be sent to the conference email:
Paper/Panel Proposal Deadline: Extended until April 30, 2018

Proposals should include: name, institutional affiliation and status, email address, contact phone, paper/panel title and abstract (250 words)

Notification of successful proposals will be made by May 30, 2018.

Conference Registration: early-bird registration begins on June 1 and ends on June 30, 2018. A late fee will be charged thereafter.

Conference fees: to be announced soon

§ Accommodation: University Hostels and Guest Houses will be negotiated at group rates for the duration of the conference. Bookings will be made online, via conference website:
§Limited travel subsidies may be available for participants from the Global South with accepted paper/panel proposals.
Conference host institution: Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil

Conveners: Afe Adogame, Raimundo Barreto (Princeton, NJ. USA); Jimmy Cabral (UFJF, Brazil) & Pan-African Strategic and Policy Research Group

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