African Spirituality and the Challenges of Modern Times (Gen Ed 1071)





What can African spiritual traditions contribute to human flourishing in the contemporary age?


Histories, Societies, Individuals icon with text

Jacob K. Olupona

Taking the Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther” as a starting point, the course will explore the African spiritual heritage both on the continent and the diaspora communities (Black Atlantic diasporas). We will begin by spelling out the features of African indigenous religious traditions: cosmology, cosmogony, mythology, ritual practices, divination, healing ceremonies, sacred kingship, etc.  We will then explore how these traditions have traveled across the oceans to the new world and how they have contributed to the emergence of new forms of black identities in Brazil, the Caribbean, the USA, etc. This class will equally look at African religious encounters with Islam and Christianity on the continent, resulting in what we often call “Africa’s Triple Heritage.” It then considers African religious sensibilities in the contemporary period, as they relate to the issues of modernity, economic and social development, ethnic and cultural identities, class, and community relations. Finally, we will look at the status of African religion as a global tradition, not necessarily in competition with other religious traditions, but in its relationship to other world religions.

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