‘Orienting’ Africana Religious Studies: East African and Indian Ocean Perspectives
Journal of Africana Religions Round Table
Devaka Premawardhana, guest editor
Scholarship on East Africa has generated valuable insights into topics central to Africana religious studies, topics such as diaspora and migration, slavery and colonialism, orality and textuality, race and ethnicity, contact and encounter, women and gender, resistance and resilience—all as they connect to religion. Yet, given the predominance of the transatlantic in Africana studies generally (the centrality, for example, of the “black Atlantic” framework), empirical support for and theoretical reflection on Africana religious studies have tended to privilege regions surrounding the Atlantic Ocean: West Africa, North and South America, and the Caribbean. It is perhaps unfair to associate this geographic orientation with the Euro-American academy’s deep-seated “western” bias, but there is no question that the eastern shore of the African continent has thus far, with some exceptions, been peripheral to Africana religious studies as a field. Ther
e is no good reason for this given that the transatlantic slave trade involved also East African populations. Moreover, well before the arrival of Europeans and up to the present, East Africans migrated and interacted within the continent, Arab and Asian influences manifest along what came to be called the Swahili coast, and African diasporas spread across the Indian Ocean.
The aim of this roundtable, to be published as a collection of short (1,500-3,000 word) essays, is to bring East African perspective to bear on Africana religious studies. Presuming that the transnational and translocal priorities of Africana studies pertain to East Africa no less than they do to regions better covered, the roundtable will gather issues, questions, theories, and concepts emerging from East Africa, the Swahili coast, and/or the Indian Ocean that potentially shed new light on the study of Africana religions. It is anticipated that the theme of encounter—between regions and between religions—will run through most essays, finding expression in such topics as: religious identity at the intersection of two or more religious cultures (Islamic, Christian, indigenous, and even Asian); the long history of Arab and Islamic influence on African religions, cultures, and languages; the place of religion(s) in the region’s precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial periods; religiously themed scholarship and literature on and from the region; and diasporic encounters beyond Africa’s eastern shores. This is just a sampling of the kinds of topics welcome; many others could be named. However framed and however focused, contributions should highlight the significance of religion among African-descended people in East Africa or the wider Indian Ocean, and should be grounded in research or reflections pertaining specifically to at least one segment of this dynamic regional complex.
All those interested in contributing should submit a 150-word proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 15, 2018. Final drafts of essays are due on August 15, 2018.