Religion/ Spirituality and Wellbeing in Africa

Scholars have argued that in Africa, religion/ spirituality in all its various manifestations is a seminal, ingrained, aspect of life, identity construction, social practice and reality construction and interpretation. They argue that religion/ spirituality should not be regarded as separate from the totality of human life in Africa. For all intents and purposes, it saturates the lives and cultures of African people. Concomitantly, religion/spirituality and its related practices, are perceived as a social and humanistic resource for African cultural, moral-ethical, political and economic functioning, but also development and advancement. This perception of religion/ spirituality, is usually endorsed by views from John Mbiti, who, in his African Religions and Philosophy (1969) described Africans as “notoriously religious”; Fabien Boulaga (1984), who embedded all of African life – “self-transcendence, nature, earth, sex, anything that moves” – in religion; Stephen Ellis and Gerrie ter Haar (2004), who argued that “it is largely through religious ideas that Africans think about the world today, and that religious ideas provide them with a means of becoming social and political actors”; and, more recently, Trinitapoli and Weinreb (2012), that Africa is “the world’s most religious continent”. This form of the essentializing, if not erroneous idealisation, of the importance of religion/ spirituality, or of a broad-based religious world view, for Africans, is obviously contentious.
Given the myriad of challenges and struggles Africans face on a daily basis in all spheres of life, in all the sociocultural, -political, and -economic dimensions, and societal levels of a rapidly – if also very unequally – modernising continent, we need to move beyond the simplistic and idealistic understandings of the significance of religion/ spirituality in Africa.
Moreover, the scholarly homogenising assumptions, common generalisations, and generic intellectual simplifications about African life and culture, not only obfuscate and befuddle very complex issues, as these differ from context to context, and country to country. They also mask a lack of the equal recognition of the wide diversity of people, as well as religions and spiritualities on the continent, and their fluid functioning, and impacts.
Against the background of these primary misconceptions, African social life should rather be fully recognised and studied with regard to its complexities, its fluid and experimental practices, and the inherent, and often tacit contestations of power and privilege, as these are present in its numerous sociocultural contradictions embedded in the articulations of the person and community; religion and the secular; health and disease; and democracy and un-democratic hegemony; as these grow, and at times collide. This means there is a need to ask about Africa’s experiential questions. In this context, it is important to better delineate the significance of religion and spirituality for African life and culture, and if not, how this is the case. Finally, can one distinguish between the nature and impact of religion and spirituality that add to the wellbeing of people, in specific contexts, and that which is to their disadvantage, and detriment. And, what do African people regard as the religion or spirituality that serve them and their wellbeing, and what not.

Amongst others, this Special Issue of Alternation seeks to clarify these key issues, as briefly outlined above, with a primary focus on the ways in which religion/ spirituality contribute to wellbeing as understood by Africans themselves in various contexts – local, national and continental or, cosmically/ environmentally. By explicating the concepts and researching the nuances of the wide variety of relationships between religion/ spirituality and wellbeing in Africa, from indigenous African perspectives, this issue will hopefully add to our discourse and knowledge production in this very important interdisciplinary area. It is also hoped that it will open up more possibilities and directions for future research, and research-led teaching and learning.

Proposed Themes Alphabetically Organized
Religion/ Spirituality, the Ancestors and Wellbeing
Religion/ Spirituality and Children
Religion/ Spirituality, Conflict and Peacebuilding
Religion/ Spirituality Consumerism and Materialism
Religion/ Spirituality, Corruption and Politics
Religion/ Spirituality, Death and Dying
Religion/ Spirituality, Democratisation, Autocracy and Patrimonialism
Religion/ Spirituality, Dialogue, Meaning, Identity, and Integration
Religion/ Spirituality and Economics (Capitalism)
Religion/ Spirituality and Employment
Religion/ Spirituality and/ in Education
Religion/ Spirituality and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Religion/ Spirituality and Health Systems
Religion/ Spirituality, Human Dignity and the Integrity of Creation
Religion/ Spirituality, HIV Testing and Condoms
Religion/ Spirituality, the Holy Spirit and Wellbeing
Religion/ Spirituality and Masculinities
Religion/ Spirituality and Marriage (e.g. abortion, childlessness (barrenness), pregnancy and birth)
Religion/ Spirituality, Moya and Wellbeing
Religion/ Spirituality and Natural Disasters (e.g. drought, famine, earthquake, etc.)
Religion/ Spirituality and Old Age
Religion/ Spirituality and Public Policy
Religion/ Spirituality and Poverty
Religion/ Spirituality, Public Health and Epidemics (e.g. HIV and AIDS, ebola, malaria, cholera)
Religion/ Spirituality, Sexuality and Gender
Religion/ Spirituality and Squatter Camp Life
Religion/ Spirituality and Urban Life
Religion/ Spirituality and Village Life
Religion/ Spirituality and Wealth Creation
Religion/ Spirituality and Youth

Academic Research in Religion/ Spirituality/ Theology and Policy Intervention

Research Grants and the Study of Religion/ Spirituality/ Theology (How are research grants informing the study of religions/ spirituality and theology in Africa, and how could they advance such research?)

Timeframe

Title and Abstract Friday 01 June 2018
Article Submission Friday 31 August 2018
Review Feedback Friday 14 September 2018
Final article Friday 12 October 2018
Final Editing Friday 11 January 2019
Submission to Press Friday 11 January 2019

Please submit the proposed titles of your articles, as well as a brief abstract of about 150 words, to the guest editors: Dr. Chammah J. Kaunda (ckaunda@hsrc.ac.za) and Prof Roderick Hewitt (hewitt@ukzn.ac.za). Please do so by 01 June 2018. (Late submissions may be considered.)

Please use the Alternation Guidelines for Contributors, and style format for submissions. Cf. below, and Guidelines for Contributors at: http://alternation.ukzn.ac.za/submissions.aspx

We request the submission of full articles, for the review process, by 31 August 2018.

References
Eboussi Boulaga, F. 1984. Christianity without Fetishes: An African Critique and Recapture of Christianity. Barr, R.r. (trans.). Maryknoll: Orbis Books.
Ellis, S. & G. ter Haar. 2004. Worlds of Power: Religious Thought and Political Practice in Africa. London: C. Hurst and Co.
Mbiti, J. 1969. African Religions and Philosophy. London, Ibadan, Nairobi: Heinemann.
Trinitapoli, J. & A. Weinreb 2012. Religion and AIDS in Africa. New York: Oxford University Press.