Rice University Department of Religion

African Religions

Bongmba_Africa-bigThe field African Religions is a multidisciplinary inquiry that involves the study of indigenous religions of Africa, the Christian Tradition in Africa, Islam in Africa, and related studies of religions that have also been described as “African Derived Religions” such as Santeria, Vodun, Candomble, etc. Research in African Religions uses phenomenological, theological, ethical, historical, and philosophical approaches.

Students working on indigenous religions can do research on historicity, symbolism, cosmology, rituals and ritualization, ethics, religion and healing, religions and political power and religion and literature. Students working in religion and healing are encouraged to participate in and take classes in the Department of Bioengineering’s program on global health.

Students working in the Christian tradition can focus on the history and growth of Christianity in Africa from antiquity to the present in areas that include: the early Church in North Africa, The Ethiopian Christian tradition, missionization, post Vatican II developments, and in the post missionary era, Christianity, politics, apartheid, and the Truth and Reconciliation. Other research areas include studies of the Bible and early Christian Origins and African Christianity. Our program also encourages research into African Initiated Churches (Independent Churches or New Religious Movements), that have become growing global religious movements. In theology, ethics, and philosophical reflection, students can do research on critical thinking in the Early Church in Africa, the modern era, with special emphasis on 20th century developments in liberation theology, Feminist theology, hermeneutics, religious and theological ethics, and philosophical ethics in the African context.

Students doing work on Islam in Africa could focus on Islamic literature in West and North Africa. Other areas of emphasis include Islamic thought and practice in Eastern and Southern Africa with emphasis on social impact of the Islamic tradition in Africa. Students can take courses with other faculty members to meet requirements in African religion such as Dr. Anthony B. Pinn, Dr. April Deconick, Dr. Matthias Henze, Dr. John Stroup, Dr. Atieno Odhiambo, Dr. Alex Byrd, and Dr. Edward Cox.

Faculty Contact: Elias K. Bongmba