Conference | Indigeneity, Religion, and Remaking the Public Sphere


Friday, December 6, 2019, 9:00am to 2:00pm


GSAS Student Center, Lehman Hall, Room 201


Presented by the Weatherhead Research Cluster on Religion and Public Life in Africa and the African Diaspora.

December 5-6, 2019

The GSAS Student Center
Lehman Hall, Room 201
Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138

Thursday, December 5, 2019

9:00–9:15 | Opening Remarks

  • Todne Thomas, Co-chair, Weatherhead Research Cluster on Religion in Public Life in Africa and the African Diaspora; Assistant Professor of African American Religions, Harvard Divinity School. Suzanne Young Murray Assistant Professor, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

9:15–10:00 | Indigeneity, Religion and Remaking the Public Sphere: Framing the Discourse

  • Jacob Olupona, Co-chair, Weatherhead Research Cluster on Religion in Public Life in Africa and the African Diaspora; Professor of African Religious Traditions, Harvard Divinity School; Professor of African and African American Studies, Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University.

10:00–12:00 | Session I: Indigenous Knowledge and Epistemological Resilience

  • Moderator: Christina Davidson, Postdoctoral Fellow, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University.
  • “Religion on Display: Indigenous Religion in the Ghanaian Public Sphere”
    David Amponsah, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania.
  • "Knowing the Gods in Public: Akan Religion and the Question of Sociopolitical Relevance”
    Marcus Harvey, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Asheville.
  • “A Reading of the Upsurge of Berber Indigenous Traditions in Today’s Public Life in Morocco
    Fatima Sadiqi, Senior Professor of Linguistics and Gender Studies, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah University, Morocco.
  • “The (Indigenous) Priest and the Prophetess: Ritual Healing Arts and Mental Illness in DRC”
    Kyrah Malika Daniels, Assistant Professor, Departments of Art History and of African and African Diaspora Studies, Boston College.

12:00–2:00 | Break (speakers lunch provided)

2:00–3:30 | Session II: Global Expansion and Transnational Spaces

  • Moderator: Margaret Lombe, Associate Professor, School of Social Work and Assistant Dean, Doctoral Program, Boston College.
  • “The Osun Phenomenon: African Goddesses at Work in 2019 Black America”
    Funlayo E. Wood-Menzies, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Black Studies Research, the University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • “Public Candomblé Revisited”
    Stephen Selka, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Indiana University.
  • “Summons, the Priestess: Divinity, Co-Creation, and Vision in Global Africa”
    Lauren Coyle-Rosen, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Princeton University.

3:30–4:00 | Coffee Break (provided)

4:00–5:30 | Session III: Identity, Citizenship and Political Performance of Indigeneity

  • Moderator: Martine Jean, 2019–2020 Mark Claster Mamolen Fellow, Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University.
  • “When the Ancestors Wage War: Mystico-Political Movements and the Ethics of War in Congo”
    Georgette I. Mulunda Ledgister, Executive Director, Fearless D!alogues. Visiting Faculty, Religious Studies, Agnes Scott College.
  • “Mysterious Morality: Statecraft and Ritualist Interventions in Kenyan Electoral Seasons”
    Sheila A. Otieno, PhD Candidate in Social Ethics, Boston University.
  • “Yoruba Tradition and Public Life”
    Ayodeji Ogunnaike, Assistant Professor of Africana Studies, Bowdoin College.

6:00 | Speakers Dinner, Harvard Faculty Club, 20 Quincy Street.

Friday, December 6, 2019

9:00–11:30 | Session IV: Contestation, Rule of Law, the State and Indigenous Tradition

  • Moderator: Bojana Coulibaly, College Fellow, African and African American Studies.
  • “Vodun in Community and Conflict”
    Venise Adjibodou, English Teacher, The Rivers School.
  • “Culture, Creed or ‘Cult’: Africana Religions and the Struggle for Legal Recognition in the 21st Century”
    Danielle N. Boaz, Assistant Professor, Department of Africana Studies, University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
  • “Charity Begins at Home: Western Democracy and the Perpetuation of Moral Decay in Africa”
    Nokuzola Mndende, Director of Icamagu Heritage Institute; Deputy Chairperson for the Commission on Traditional Leadership Disputes and Claims; National Chairperson on the Council of African Religion.

11:30–12:30 | Brainstorming/Reflecting on the way forward

12:30–2:00 | Lunch (provided)

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