In February, Routledge released Identity Crises and Indigenous Religious Traditions: Exploring Nigerian-African Christian Societies by Elijah Obinna (Corsock and Kirkpatrick-Durham Church). The publisher’s description follows:
This book highlights the complex identity crises among many Christians as they negotiate their new identities, religious ideas and convictions as both Christians and members of Nigerian-African societies of indigenous religious traditions and identities. Through an interdisciplinary interpretation of religious practices and educational issues in teaching and ritual training, the author provides tools to help analyse empirical cases. These include the negotiation processes among Christians, with focus on the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria (PCN) and members of the Ogo society within the Amasiri, Afikpo North Local Government Area, Ebonyi state, in South-eastern Nigeria.
Identifying the power dynamic, identity, role and influence of indigenous religions on Christians and the Ogo society, this book reveals the limited interactions between many Christians and members of the Ogo society. Questions explored include: what makes the Ogo society an integral part of the socio-religious life of Amasiri and what powers and identity does it confer on the initiates; how is the PCN within Amasiri responding to the Ogo society through its religious practices such as baptism, confirmation, local auxiliary ministries and organisational structure; and how does the understanding and application of conversion within the PCN impact on its members’ response to the Ogo society? Demonstrating how complex religious identities and practices of Nigerian-African Christians can balance mission-influenced Christianity with indigenous religious traditions and identities, this book recognises the importance of appropriating the powers of indigenous cultures, ingenuity and creativity in the construction and preservation of community identities. As such, it will be of keen interest to scholars of Christian theology, indigenous religious practice and African lived religion.
In April, Edinburgh University Press will release Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa edited by Kenneth Ross (University of Malawi), J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu (Trinity Theological Seminary), and Todd M. Johnson (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary). The publisher’s description follows:
Combines empirical data and original analysis in a uniquely detailed account of Christianity in Sub-Saharan Africa
This comprehensive reference volume covers every country in Sub-Saharan Africa, offering reliable demographic information and original interpretative essays by indigenous scholars and practitioners. It maps patterns of growth and decline, assesses major traditions and movements, analyses key themes and examines current trends.
- Profiles of Christianity in every country in Sub-Saharan Africa including clearly presented statistical and demographic information
- Analyses of leading features and current trends written by indigenous scholars
- Essays examining each of the major Christian traditions (Anglicans, Independents, Orthodox, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Evangelicals, Pentecostals/ Charismatics)
- Essays exploring key themes such as faith and culture, worship and spirituality, theology, social and political engagement, mission and evangelism, religious freedom, inter-faith relations, slavery, anthropology of evil, and migration
In September, Indiana University Press released Islamic Education in Africa: Writing Boards and Blackboards edited by Robert Launay (Northwestern University). The publisher’s description follows:
Writing boards and blackboards are emblematic of two radically different styles of education in Islam. The essays in this lively volume address various aspects of the expanding and evolving range of educational choices available to Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa. Contributors from the United States, Europe, and Africa evaluate classical Islamic education in Africa from colonial times to the present, including changes in pedagogical methods—from sitting to standing, from individual to collective learning, from recitation to analysis. Also discussed are the differences between British, French, Belgian, and Portuguese education in Africa and between mission schools and Qur’anic schools; changes to the classical Islamic curriculum; the changing intent of Islamic education; the modernization of pedagogical styles and tools; hybrid forms of religious and secular education; the inclusion of women in Qur’anic schools; and the changing notion of what it means to be an educated person in Africa. A new view of the role of Islamic education, especially its politics and controversies in today’s age of terrorism, emerges from this broadly comparative volume.
This month, IB Tauris Publishers releases The Orthodox Church of Ethiopia: A History by John Binns (University Church, Cambridge). The publisher’s description follows:
Surrounded by steep escarpments to the north, south and east, Ethiopia has always been geographically and culturally set apart. It has the longest archaeological record of any country in the world. Indeed, this precipitous mountain land was where the human race began. It is also home to an ancient church with a remarkable legacy. The Ethiopian Church forms the southern branch of historic Christianity. It is the only pre-colonial church in sub-Saharan Africa, originating in one of the earliest Christian kingdoms-with its king Ezana (supposedly descended from the biblical Solomon) converting around 340 CE. Since then it has maintained its long Christian witness in a region dominated by Islam; today it has a membership of around forty million and is rapidly growing. Yet despite its importance, there has been no comprehensive study available in English of its theology and history. This is a large gap which this authoritative and engagingly written book seeks to fill. The Church of Ethiopia (or formally, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church) has a recognized place in worldwide Christianity as one of five non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches.As Dr Binns shows, it has developed a distinctive approach which makes it different from all other churches.
His book explains why this happened and how these special features have shaped the life of the Christian people of Ethiopia. He discusses the famous rock-hewn churches; the Ark of the Covenant (claimed by the Church and housed in Aksum); the medieval monastic tradition; relations with the Coptic Church; co-existence with Islam; missionary activity; and the Church’s venerable oral traditions, especially the discipline of qene-a kind of theological reflection couched in a unique style of improvised allegorical poetry. There is also a sustained exploration of how the Church has been forced to re-think its identity and mission as a result of political changes and upheaval following the overthrow of Haile Selassie (who ruled as Regent, 1916-1930, and then as Emperor, 1930-74) and beyond.
Next month, Routledge will release A New History of African Christian Thought: From Cape to Cairo edited by David Ngong (Baylor University). The publisher’s description follows:
David Tonghou Ngong offers a comprehensive view of African Christian thought that includes North Africa in antiquity as well as Sub-Saharan Africa from the period of colonial missionary activity to the present. Challenging conventional colonial divisions of Africa, A New History of African Christian Thought demonstrates that important continuities exist across the continent. Chapters written by specialists in African Christian thought reflect the issues—both ancient and modern—in which Christian Africa has impacted the shape of Christian belief from the beginning of the movement up to the present day.
In September, Edinburgh University Press will release Islamic Reform In Twentieth-Century Africa by Roman Loimeier (University of Göttingen). The publisher’s description follows:
Based on twelve case studies (Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar and the Comoros), this book looks at patterns and peculiarities of different traditions of Islamic reform. Considering both Sufi- and Salafi-oriented movements in their respective historical contexts, it stresses the importance of the local context to explain the different trajectories of development.
The book studies the social, religious and political impact of these reform movements in both historical and contemporary times and asks why some have become successful as popular mass movements, while others failed to attract substantial audiences. It also considers jihad-minded movements in contemporary Mali, northern Nigeria and Somalia and looks at modes of transnational entanglement of movements of reform. Against the background of a general inquiry into what constitutes ‘reform’, the text responds to the question of what ‘reform’ actually means for Muslims in contemporary Africa.
In June, the University of Chicago Press will release “Muslims Talking Politics: Framing Islam, Democracy, and Law in Northern Nigeria,” by Brandon Kendhammer (Ohio University). The publisher’s description follows:
For generations Islamic and Western intellectuals and policymakers have debated Islam’s compatibility with democratic government, usually with few solid conclusions. But where—Brandon Kendhammer asks in this book—have the voices of ordinary, working-class Muslims been in this conversation? Doesn’t the fate of democracy rest in their hands? Visiting with community members in northern Nigeria, he tells the complex story of the stunning return of democracy to a country that has also embraced Shariah law and endured the radical religious terrorism of Boko Haram.
Kendhammer argues that despite Nigeria’s struggles with jihadist insurgency, its recent history is really one of tenuous and fragile reconciliation between mass democratic aspirations and concerted popular efforts to preserve Islamic values in government and law. Combining an innovative analysis of Nigeria’s Islamic and political history with visits to the living rooms of working families, he sketches how this reconciliation has been constructed in the conversations, debates, and everyday experiences of Nigerian Muslims. In doing so, he uncovers valuable new lessons—ones rooted in the real politics of ordinary life—for how democracy might work alongside the legal recognition of Islamic values, a question that extends far beyond Nigeria and into the Muslim world at large.
In April, Routledge will release “Public Religion and the Politics of Homosexuality in Africa” edited by Adriaan van Klinken (University of Leeds, UK) and Ezra Chitando (University of Zimbabwe). The publisher’s description follows:
Issues of same-sex relationships and gay and lesbian rights are the subject of public and political controversy in many African societies today. Frequently, these controversies receive widespread attention both locally and globally, such as with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. In the international media, these cases tend to be presented as revealing a deeply-rooted homophobia in Africa fuelled by religious and cultural traditions. But so far little energy is expended in understanding these controversies in all their complexity and the critical role religion plays in them. This is the first book with multidisciplinary perspectives on religion and homosexuality in Africa. It presents case studies from across the continent, from Egypt to Zimbabwe and from Senegal to Kenya, and covers religious traditions such as Islam, Christianity and Rastafarianism. The contributors explore the role of religion in the politicisation of homosexuality, investigate local and global mobilisations of power, critically examine dominant religious discourses, and highlight the emergence of counter-discourses. Hence they reveal the crucial yet ambivalent public role of religion in matters of sexuality, social justice and human rights in contemporary Africa.
In April, the Harvard University Press will release “African Pentecostals in Catholic Europe: The Politics of Presence in the Twenty-First Century,” by Annalisa Butticci (Harvard Divinity School and Utrecht University). The publisher’s description follows:
Over the past thirty years, Italy—the historic home of Catholicism—has become a significant destination for migrants from Nigeria and Ghana. Along with suitcases and dreams of a brighter future, these Africans bring their own form of Christianity, Pentecostalism, shaped by their various cultures and religious worlds. At the heart of Annalisa Butticci’s beautifully sculpted ethnography of African Pentecostalism in Italy is a paradox. Pentecostalism, traditionally one of the most Protestant of Christian faiths, is driven by the same concern as Catholicism: real presence.
In Italy, Pentecostals face harsh anti-immigrant sentiment and limited access to economic and social resources. At times, they find safe spaces to worship in Catholic churches, where a fascinating encounter unfolds that is equal parts conflict and communion. When Pentecostals watch Catholics engage with sacramental objects—relics, statues, works of art—they recognize the signs of what they consider the idolatrous religions of their ancestors. Catholics, in turn, view Pentecostal practices as a mix of African religions and Christian traditions. Yet despite their apparently irreconcilable differences and conflicts, they both share a deeply sensuous and material way to make the divine visible and tangible. In this sense, Pentecostalism appears much closer to Catholicism than to mainstream Protestantism.
African Pentecostals in Catholic Europe offers an intimate glimpse at what happens when the world’s two fastest growing Christian faiths come into contact, share worship space, and use analogous sacramental objects and images. And it explains how their seemingly antithetical practices and beliefs undergird a profound commonality.
In March, Ashgate will release “Reconciliation and Religio-political Non-conformism in Zimbabwe” by Joram Tarusarira (University of Groningen, The Netherlands). The publisher’s description follows:
Religio-political organisations in Zimbabwe play an important role in advocating democratisation and reconciliation, against acquiescent, silenced or co-opted mainstream churches. Reconciliation and Religio-political Non-conformism in Zimbabwe analyses activities of religious organisations that deviate from the position of mainline churches and the political elites with regard to religious participation in political matters, against a background of political conflict and violence.
Drawing on detailed case studies of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA), Churches in Manicaland (CiM) and Grace to Heal (GtH), this book provocatively argues that in the face of an unsatisfactory religious and political culture, religio-political non-conformists emerge seeking to introduce a new ethos even in the face of negative sanctions from dominant religious and political systems.