African Lived Christianity – Faith, Ritual and Power

Lund University, CTR (LUX Building, Helgonavägen 3, Lund)
16 – 18 March 2016

The thematic focus of this conference is on the lived experiences of African Christianity, on how religion and religious experience are part of the understanding and explanation of social reality in Africa. By taking this thematic focus, we wish to overcome the dividing lines in the study of African Christianity between theology and the social sciences. We seek to engage with an emerging literature that combines the analysis of religious experience and faith with an analysis of how African Christianity feeds into constellations of power hierarchies and social relationships of dependency, reciprocity and mutuality. One of the aims is to build interpretative bridges between African enchanted worldviews and Western academic interpretations and to add to an emerging dialogue between anthropology and theology. Within the social science literature the growth of newer African independent churches (charismatic, Pentecostal, evangelical) has often been understood as a reaction to changed socio-economic circumstances such as increased liberalization, modernization, and individualization. At the same time, scholarly work on African theology or theology in relation to Christianity in Africa tend to focus merely on ethical and philosophical issues and hence only in a limited way engaging with experiences of lived Christianity in Africa. By focusing on faith, ritual and power, the conference draws attention to religious experiences and perceptions of faith, to the practices of religion as well as to the social hierarchies into which religion enters. African theological interpretations of lived religion are fertile ground for analyzing and discussing the encounter between anthropology and theology as well as between African enchanted worldviews and Western academic interpretations. In other words, we need this dialogue between anthropology and theology to analyze everyday experiences and interpretations of Christianity in Africa and to include the intellectual work and grassroots theology that takes place within communities.

Confirmed plenary speakers

Elias Bongmba (Rice University) Naomi Haynes (Edinburgh University) Isabel Mukonyora (West Kentucky University) Niels Kastfelt (Copenhagen University) Galia Sabar (Tel Aviv University) Päivi Hasu (Helsinki University) Tomas Sundnes Drønen (Stavanger School of Mission and Theology) Karen Lauterbach (Copenhagen University) Mika Vähäkangas (Lund University) Carl Sundberg (Lund University) Hans Olsson (Lund University) Lotta Gammelin (Lund University) Martina Prosén (Lund University) We welcome paper proposals within the following themes, but are not limited to these: * Enchantment as resistance * Writing and orality as religious experience * Wealth, reciprocity and well-being in African Christianity * Gender and healing * Ritual and the search of good life * Christianity in Africa or African Christianity? * Theology, African cosmologies and church life * Popular culture and rituals of performance * Transnationalism, migration and mission in African Christianities * Faith in African public life Paper abstracts (of maximum 250 words) should be uploaded on the conference webpage by the 15th February 2016 at the latest. By 25 February 2016 information on paper acceptance will be send out. Full written papers (of maximum 8,000 words) are expected to be circulated at the conference.


Wednesday 16th March 2016 Location: LUX C121

14:00             Welcome and opening of the conference 14:15             Keynote: Elias Bongmba – What has Kinshasa to do with Athens? Towards a new vision of African political theology 15:00             Coffee break 15:30             Keynote: Naomi Haynes – Lived Christianity as the Research Object in the Contact Zone of Anthropology and Theology 16:15             Plenary: Galia Sabar – Tensions between the African and Western Worlds in Transnational African Christianity 16:45             Discussion 17:30             Simple dinner for all participants

Thursday 17th March 2016 Plenary location: LUX C126

9:15-11:15     Paper sessions; two streams, locations: LUX C126 & LUX C214, coffee available at the entry to C126 at 11:15 11:30             Plenary: Isabel Mukonyora – Gender and spiritual power in African Christianity 12:00             Plenary: Lotta Gammelin – Gender and healing in Tanzania, Gospel Miracle Church for all Peoples 12:30             Lunch 13:45             Plenary: Päivi Hasu – African Christianity as an Agent of Change 14:15             Plenary: Hans Olsson – Religion and Politics in Zanzibar 14:45             Plenary: Martina Prosén – Praise and worship as a mode of theology in Nairobi charismatic churches 15:15             Coffee break 16:00             Plenary: Niels Kastfelt - The Sounds of an African Christianity 16:30             Plenary: Carl Sundberg – Revealed medicine in Congo Brazzaville, Eglise evangélique du Congo 17:00             Plenary: Mika Vähäkangas – Diffuse reincarnation and the incarnation of the Holy Spirit in the Kimbanguist Church 17:30             Concluding discussion 18:30             Refreshments

Friday 18th March 2016 Location: LUX C121

9:15-12:30     NIME Nordic doctoral school paper sessions The conference is free of charge but the participants are supposed to cover for their travel, accommodation and meals. The conference is funded by: Lunds missionssällskap Riksbankens Jubileumsfond Vitterhetsakademien