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The Race-Religion Constellation: Entanglements in African Political Communities

Deadline: September 21st, 2019

Special Issue of The South African Journal of Philosophy (July 2020)

Guest Editors: Josias Tembo and Anya Topolski

The reality of political communities in Africa cannot be understood properly independently of colonial racialization. The formation of colonial political communities on the African continent, as Fanon has shown, was premised on a Manichean world view, a compartmentalized conception of a political community based on racial exclusion in terms of the colour line. As such the vast amount of literature in the field of critical philosophy of race, which is US-centric, has focused on the race-colour intersection. This has begun to change as it has been convincingly argued in Europe that race was co-constituted with religion. During colonization the missionary’s most consistent objective was “to expand “the absoluteness of “Christianity” and its virtues” and “the missionary was also, paradoxically, the best symbol of the colonial enterprise” (Mudimbe 1982, 47). To be sure, some scholarly attention is given to the role of religion in colonial and postcolonial African social and political imaginations and practices. Nonetheless, much less scholarly and political attention has been given to understanding and unraveling the co-constitution of race and religion in conceptions and practices of colonial and postcolonial political racial exclusion in Africa. Therefore, it is essential to take account of the impact and force of the co-constitution of race and religion in the processes of racialization and political exclusion as ‘religion’ is at the centre of the European colonial and racial project (Ramose 1998 & Topolski 2018). In Africa today where religion plays a central role in identity discourses and practices (Sanni 2015), the need to understand the role of the race-religion intersection in the constitution of political communities as conscripts of colonialism and modes of political exclusion becomes imperative. 

With the objective of understanding the intersection/co-constitution of race and religion in the formation of systematic political practices of exclusion in colonial and postcolonial African political communities, and to develop a critical African philosophy of race that focuses on the intersection of race and religion, the Race-Religion Constellation Research Project invites scholars to submit contributions for this special issue.

The Race-Religions Constellation Project recognizes the vastness, diversity and multiplicities of past and present African experiences of racialization and colonialism in political communities. While our preference is for English submissions (and the publication will be in English), if language is a barrier, we will consider contributions in French, Arabic or Swahilli (and will find appropriate reviewers and if the articles are selected, we will pay translation costs). We are open to a diversity of disciplines and methodologies (e.g. history, genealogical, theology, anthropology, sociological etc., with a philosophical inflection) and are looking for critical contributions that may consider answering some of the following questions: 

  • What notions and conceptions of ‘religion’ are politically instituted in different African nation states and how do they relate to racialization? What was the role of religion, and which ‘religions’ in the racialization of African subjects? 
  • How does ‘religion’ today as a heritage and conscript of racial modernity function to include and exclude people in African political communities? 
  • As colonial heritage, how does ‘religion’ function to define who is human and who is not human or racialize people in contemporary African political practices? 
  • How did religion, as a racial conscript, shape the idea of a political community in African colonial and postcolonial practices? How is political belonging defined in postcolonial African political communities where Christianity and Islam are the main forms of religion? 
  • What space is left for alternative forms of religious practice? Including those indigenous to many African communities.
  • What is the significance, for contemporary Africa, of the fact that most of the early political leaders of Africa in the struggle against colonialism were adherents to either Islam or Christianity?

We are also honoured that the distinguished scholar Mogobe Ramose, Professor of Philosophy at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences Universityhas agreed to write a response to all selected essays. 

The articles should be between 6000 and 8000 words and are due on September 21st, 2019. Questions, ideas for abstracts and articles should be sent to the guest editors ([email protected][email protected]) with subject line: The Race-Religion Constellation: Entanglements in African Political Communitiesand must follow the guidelines for South African Journal of Philosophy.