Africa

Coordinator: Dr. Yonatan Nissim Gez

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The African Unit at the Truman Institute is dedicated to research on Africa, its inclusion in the global agenda and its promotion within the Israeli academia. Its scholars come from various disciplines, including religious studies, development studies, anthropology, folklore, history, economics, history and politics. In the past year, the unit has been reinvigorated through the involvement of a committed group of young scholars from the Hebrew University and beyond, and has produced a series of events, conferences and, most notably, an interdisciplinary workshop series focusing on Africa called “Africounters”. The Africounters workshop series are open to all. Conducted on a monthly basis, each session focuses on a general theme, selected and developed by the participants themselves. Over 60 participants have registered to partake in the group.

In addition, over the 2016-2017 academic year, the unit held two international conferences: Firstly, together with the African Center for Peace in the USA, it hosted the conference “Democratization, Religion and the Pursuit of Peace in Africa “ (7-9 May 2017). Secondly, together with the Glocal International Development MA program, the Martin Buber Society of Fellows, and the Authority of Research and Development, it hosted the conference “Christian Renewal Movements in the Global South in the 20th and 21st Centuries: Religious, Social and Political Transformations” (28-29 May 2017). This is in addition to other events, such as a book lunch and hosting foreign guest scholars. 

“Democratization, Religion and the Pursuit of Peace in Africa”: The conference  brought together senior leaders from both the political and religious spheres from across Africa, as well as academics from Israel and abroad. Through this encounter, the event facilitated a unique trialogue along the nexus connecting politics, religion and academic scholarship. Through these multilateral discussions, the event shed new light on the place of religion in socio-political processes—including democratization and peacebuilding—across the continent, culminating in concrete paths for action and new directions for scholarship. The keynote address was delivered by former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who spoke about democratization and challenges thereto across Africa. This topic was then picked up by successive speakers through the prism of particular contexts, with special emphasis on the responsibility, as well as challenges, for religion in preserving and deepening democratization processes.

“Christian Renewal Movements in the Global South in the 20th and 21st Centuries: Religious, Social and Political Transformations”: The explosion of new and diverse forms of Christianity across the Global South – mass conversions, emergence of new denominations, and revitalization within established churches – have been among the most staggering religious phenomena of recent times. The diffused Pentecostal and Evangelical movements, which gained prominence throughout the 20th century, have already reached a dramatic following of over half a billion. The Roman Catholic Church and the historical mainline churches have joined the fray with their own charismatic renewal movements. The emergence of these new churches has had profound social, cultural and political impact within international, national and local arenas. No wonder, therefore, that some have been referring to the explosion of new Christian forms as a "second reformation," a term indicative of its magnitude and far-reaching implications.  

The two-day interdisciplinary conference was dedicated to dialogue between scholars of religion in the broad sense of the term, with the aim of developing comparative, interdisciplinary perspectives. The conference was hosted at the Mandel building, Mt. Scopus, and was organized by Truman fellows Yonatan N. Gez and Yael Mabat, together with the help of Tamara Kerzhner, Manya Kagan, Gregor Buss and Marlous van Waijenburg,. The conference enjoyed the sponsorship of the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, the Martin Buber Society of Fellows, the Glocal International Development MA program, and the Hebrew University's Authority for Research and Development. 

The conference featured over twenty contributors of various career stages and disciplinary orientations from over ten countries, including several from the Global South. The participants explored multiple approaches through which to develop comparative perspectives on these disperse-yet-interrelated religio-social developments. Through multi-sited comparative studies, exploration of moments of cross-regional interaction, and the mapping of channels of inter-regional influences, as well as in-depth and contextualized studies of specific case studies, the conference participants gained insights into how local and global trends play out both geographically and over time.

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For more information about the Africa Research Unit, please contact with the Assistant Coordinator - Manya Kagan at: africounters@gmail.com

Click here to view the Africa Unit Research Group - Africounters