Event Archive

Guest Lecture: Ritual and Embodiment: Making Religion in contemporary (west) Africa


If, as Marcel Mauss once suggested, all religious traditions involve specific, extra-daily body usage responsible for inducing non-ordinary experience in practitioners, they do not all do so in the same way. Even within a single tradition, the alteration of organic functions and ordinary psychomotor patterns can take multiple forms. Analyzing these forms sheds light on the ways selves are forged through ritual practices while also informing us about the structure of religious landscapes that these practices contribute to generate in each particular case: such is the proposition the lecture advances and illustrates through an ethnographic account of selected examples of ritual embodiment from West Africa. Based on over twenty years of fieldwork I have conducted among Mande people in rural and urban Mali, Guinea, and Côte d’Ivoire, to substantiate my claim, I will, more precisely, draw on the materials pertaining to three sets of practices which constitute today the non-Islamic pole of the contemporary Mande religious landscape. Those are: the activities of the donsow-hunters and their initiation societies, the manipulation of “power objects” known as basitigiya, and finally a spirit possession cult, currently expanding, called jinɛdon. These practices represent possible points of entry chosen to apprehend a more general theoretical problem: the modalities and mechanisms according to which rituals contribute to the making of religion and its agents. The general question I try to tackle in my research is not what ritual does but how it does what is does: how it helps practitioners to become a different kind of person, change their relation to the world, to Others, and to themselves through the elaboration of new embodiments, as well as through the specific, varied, yet extra-daily body practices.Ritual and Embodiment: Making Religion in contemporary (west) Africa


Prof. Agnes Kedzierska Manzon is Chair of Anthropology of Religion in Africa at the École Pratique des Hautes Études of Paris Sciences Lettres university (EPHE – PSL) in Paris, France, and member of the laboratory IMAf (Institut des Mondes Africains). Professor Kedzierska Manzon studies traditional religious practices as well as new forms of ritualization currently developing south of Sahara – especially in Western and Southern Africa – within a comparative frame, focusing on their material and somatic aspects. She authored Guérisseurs et féticheurs : la médicine traditionnelle en Afrique de l’Ouest (2006) Chasseurs mandingues : violence, pouvoir et religion en Afrique de l’Ouest (2014) and Corps rituels : la fabrique du religieux en pays mandingue (2023), 3 edited volumes and numerous articles.


Transversal Disputation: Critical Perspectives on race and the ’new-anti-Semitism‘ discourse


The accusation of anti-Semitism leveled against various groups, organizations, and individuals is gaining increasing significance in political and societal realms. Understanding the historical roots of these developments, the socio-political processes shaping their interpretation, and the local and global contexts in which they unfold are pivotal issues in contemporary society. Three esteemed experts in this field will undertake a critical analysis of race and the ’new anti-Semitism‘ discourse through the lenses of their respective disciplines and personal experiences. Steven Friedman, drawing on his expertise from South Africa, will offer insights from a political science perspective, examining historical and global contexts. Esther Romeyn will contribute a cultural studies viewpoint, employing discourse analysis to explore her experiences in the US and her research on the notion of Europeanness. Anna Younes will provide a critical race perspective on what she calls the ‘War on Antisemitism’ and how it plays out in particular for Palestinians. Collaboratively, the speakers will contemplate potential trajectories for the future, conveying both pessimistic and decolonial outlooks, as they unravel the intricate dynamics of race within the discourse on ’new anti-Semitism‘ in the 21st century.


Prof. Steven Friedman is a South African political scientist, activist and journalist. Currently, he is research professor and the director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg and Rhodes University. His recent book „Good Jew Bad Jew: racism, anti-Semitism and the assault on meaning“ addresses how and why the current language around anti-Semitism has been distorted and weaponized, and what it means for the fight against racism in South Africa and in other parts of the world.

Prof. Esther Romeyn is an instructional professor at the Center for European Studies at the University of Florida. Her research is broadly interdisciplinary and converges around an interest in the importance of narratives in ordering political realities and forging collective identities. In her current publications she explores the intersection of Holocaust memorialization and the politics of migration as a revealing lens to explore the fault lines in the current debates about citizenship, rights and migrant (un)belonging in the Netherlands and other parts of the world.

Dr. Anna Younes is an independent scholar of race and critical theories, using psychoanalytic approaches and post-, de- and in particular settler-colonial theory. Her PhD thesis tackled “Race, Colonialism and the Figure of the Jew in a New Germany” and her subsequent academic, journalistic and activist work deals with the ‘new anti-Semitism’ discourse and anti-Palestinian racism within Germany and Europe. Younes understands her work to be transnational and transhistorical in perspective, analysis and scope. Younes also defines her work through the (anthropological) concept of “researching home” and “researching up to power”. Her work can be found on her website (annaestheryounes.net) and on academia.edu.

Guest Lecture: Mental Health in the context of African Traditional Religion


Globally, in the recent years, mental health challenges have been a topic of scholarly and political (policy) concern. Statistics are on the rise, and so are related policies. While recent research has alluded to numerous causes – social, economic, and sometimes spiritual, there seems to be no tangible evidence of proper control of mental health illness across most African countries. Research findings are awash with various statistical and qualitative evidence on various patient care practices, with varying degrees of success and failure. A lot has been written on African traditional healers and religious healers and their role on mental health challenges. While some scholars agree on the importance of these healthcare practitioners to mental health patients, especially in low resource setting, others argue that their widely-sought interventions delay proper health-seeking practices from hospitals, exacerbating the effects of the illnesses on the patients and their families. Other scholars observe the relevance on both traditional and modern healthcare approaches to mental health challenges and encourage an environment where the two practices can not only co-exist, but find a way of interfacing, for mutual benefit of the patients. This presentation aims to highlight these diverse perspectives, and through a number of case studies, show the relevance of ATR to those that find solace, comfort and healing, for a health challenge that faces a number of situational, societal and structural challenges in Africa. At the same time, the presentation flags cases where patients may require much more than the traditional healers, and thus a call for consideration of hybrid treatment pathway to mental health illnesses. Mental health in the context of African Traditional Religion


Susan Kilonzo, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion at Maseno University in Kenya and Senior Researcher with Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung (Georg Forster-Forschungsstipendium) at University of Bamberg in Germany. Trained in sociology of religion and education, Kilonzo does research on conflict resolution and peacebuilding, religion, mental health and higher education.

Transversal Disputation: Women, Faith and Social Justice Activism in Kenya


Religion has power to convene and convince positively or negatively. Religious teachings, in oral or written form, play a major role in defining social spaces and in cementing patriarchal settings. At the same time, however, religious teachings can also become the source for contesting traditional gender roles and for empowering women. In this discussion, we look at how faith has been a catalyst for women in creating a space for activism and provide examples of the women. We bring to light the muted voices and visiblize these voices on issues of leadership for women in both religious circles and in secular spaces. We note how women have managed to navigate the patriarchal ideologies. We also note the current backlash on the gains that women have made. The backlash is both internal and external.


Esther Mombo is Professor of theology at the St. Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya. She teaches church history and theologies from women’s perspectives and interfaith courses. Mombo writes on women’s issues, evangelism, HIV/AIDS and poverty in Africa. She has been involved in work on Christian-Muslim relations in Africa, specifically with the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians. Mombo received a MPhil from Trinity College Dublin and obtained her PhD at Edinburgh University.

Damaris Parsitau is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Philosophy, History and Religious Studies at Egerton University in Kenya. Currently, she is Director of Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin University, USA. Her research and teaching interests include World/African Christianity, Evangelical, and Pentecostal Christianity, and its intersections with women’s leadership, gender, women’s bodies, politics, and civil engagements. Parsitau is the founder of Let Maasai Girls Learn, an initiative that seeks to rally global, regional, and local action for girls’ education throughout Maasailand in Kenya. She was also a Research Associate at the Women Studies in Religion Programme at Harvard University.

IRTG Conference 2023: Religion in Social Transformation

From 12-15 September 2023, this year’s Summer School of the IRTG „Transformative Religion“ will take place at the Faculty of Theology of Humboldt-Universität Berlin. Under the title „Transformative Religion: Religion as Situated Knowledge in Social Transformation Processes“, the German-South African Research Training Group aims to make intercontinental and transdisciplinary contributions to the study of the complex interrelations between religion and society. In case studies, the IRTG examines religion as a specifically situated knowledge as well as the relationship between religion and social transformation. With a series of keynotes, the program of the Summer School dedicated to the topic „Religion in Social Transformation“ also invites a larger audience to become acquainted with different aspects of the research questions investigated in the IRTG.

More information about the program can be found HERE.

More information on the Summer School keynote lectures can be found HERE.

Transversal Disputation: „Epistemic Entanglements of Religion, Race, Gender and Migration – A European Perspective“

The postcolonial turn in Europe has led to critical approaches to race and migration within both gender studies and migration studies in Germany and Europe. However, the ground-breaking transnational and transdisciplinary research modalities still remain marginalized within the study of religion. This transversal disputation will amplify these frequently excluded and underfunded articulations and will focus on the question of epistemic entanglements with the category of “religion”. Alyosxa Tudor will present their innovative work on mechanisms of racialization and migratization in critical migration studies in Europe while Ozan Zakariya Keskinkiliç will present his empirical research on affects, stigma and racialization within anti-Muslim racism in Germany. The discussion will open avenues to engage critically with religion, race and gender from trans, queer and migrant perspectives. The disputation will offer not only an innovative theoretical framework but an up-to-date critical reconsideration of lived experience of racialized and migratized subjects.


Dr. Alyosxa Tudor is the chair of Centre for Gender Studies at SOAS (School for Oriental and African Studies) at University of London. Their work connects trans and queer feminist approaches with transnational feminism and postcolonial studies. Tudor’s main research interest lies in analyzing (knowledge productions on) migrations, diasporas, and borders in relation to critiques of Eurocentrism and to processes of gendering and racialization.

Ozan Zakariya Keskinkılıç is a political scientist and currently a doctoral candidate at the Humboldt University in Berlin. He researches (anti-Muslim) Racism, Antisemitism, Orientalism, as well as Jewish-Muslim Relations. He is author and co-editor of numerous books (academic and poetry), and was appointed a member of the expert commission against anti-Muslim racism in Berlin.

Moderated by the PhD candidates of the IRTG „Transformative Religion“: Anat Kraslavsky and Sina Benyamina.

Guest Lecture: „Non-confessional political theology“

Bruno Latour (among others) distinguishes between to present and to represent. To present implies the intention to let voices and practices of people speak, to represent means to talk on behalf of them. According to Latour, in the area of environmental activism, there are good number of people using the representational discourse. Only indigenous and people living close to nature can really present. Can theology learn from this paradigm? Liberation and post-colonial theology have pursued voices of the others for many decades. The lecture will give some critical theological comments to some current positions in Western political theology and some suggestions to how the everyday concept opens for a less Westernized, more presenting theology.


Dr. Wyller, Trygve (1950) is Professor Emeritus of Contemporary Theology and the Study of Christian Social Practice at University of Oslo and Honorary Professor at the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Recent publications include: Decolonial Counter-conducts? Traces of Decentering Migrant Ecclesiologies (2018); Embodied Spiritualities: Methodologies, Practices, and the Issue of Generous Christianities (2021).

Guest Lecture: „Challenged by coloniality: How white people imagine and practice reconciliation in a culturally diverse church in Cape Town“

A recently completed PhD project sought to understand how white people in a reformed church congregation in Cape Town worked for the realisation of a multicultural community while they continued to dominate in many areas. The research participants’ understanding of ‘racial’ reconciliation was found to emphasise the increasing of equality and racial integration, both between individuals and groups. White people’s dominance was acknowledged with regard to socio-economic imbalances but contested when it came to language use and how this was entangled with ‘culture’ and theology. In actively striving for reconciliation, white people predominantly defaulted to their own terms which were often taken as universal. A lesser approach recognised that different terms often existed and that the actual giving up of power and control promises more meaningful changes in power dynamics than the often-employed strategies of ‘upliftment’ and ‘inclusion’. This qualitative ethnographic study was complemented by a comparison of three isiXhosa/English term pairs that highlighted the complex nature of translation. The project not only raises questions regarding the adequacy of prevalent reconciliation paradigms for contexts of coloniality. It also draws attention to the risks of ignoring the role of ‘languaculture’ in overcoming interracial divisions and inequalities.


Marcus Grohmann received his PhD at the Jena Center for Reconciliation Studies, having been co- supervised from Stellenbosch University. Between 2003 and 2010 he studied Social Anthropology and Development Sociology at the University of Bayreuth and the Université de Bordeaux. During that time, he was engaged in reconciliation research in Rwanda and the DR Congo with a particular focus on the role of churches in ethnic conflicts and in conflict resolution. Originally hailing from Dresden, Germany, he has been living in Cape Town with his family since 2016.

Transversal Disputation: „Religion as situated knowledge in gendered and queer perspective“

with an input by Ulrike Auga (Professor of Religious Studies, Intercultural Theology and Ecumenism, Hamburg University; Associated Professor, IRTG Transformative Religion, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

and responses by Anat Kraslavsky (PhD fellow IRTG Transformative Religion, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) & Sizwe Sithole (PhD fellow IRTG Transformative Religion, University of Kwazulu-Natal)

To overcome universalist approaches and epistemic violence in the conceptualisation of gender and religion in society and academia an epistemology has been demanded, which addresses the aspects of partiality, materiality and embodied experience in the process of knowledge production. The work of Ulrike Auga systematically develops a new theory of gender and religion as situated knowledge. The approach is genealogically and critically queer; it elaborates where, how, and why these discursive categories have been essentialized and naturalised in dominant and in some resistant discourses. As a response, gender and religion are conceptualized as deessentialized, disidentified, performative categories of knowledge, intersecting with race, class, nation, ability, and species. At the same time it is argued in a postsecular perspective that individual and collective agency, or political subjectivity and social transformation can also be conveyed through piety and spirituality. ‘Situated knowledge theory’ (Haraway) or ‘regional epistemology’ fundamentally underline the materiality of knowledge production and the involvement of institutions in science, the humanities and also in the study of religion. This leads to further ontological and socio-political questions concerning the entanglement of matter and meaning, as e.g. in agential realism in different epistemic landscapes.



Ulrike E. Auga is Professor of Religious Studies, Intercultural Theology and Ecumenism at Hamburg University, CTI Fellow in Princeton and Associated Researcher at the IRTG Transformative Religion. Religion as Situated Knowledge in Processes of Social Transformation at HU Berlin. She was Bonhoeffer Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary New York; Kaethe Leichter Visiting Professor in Vienna; United Nations Guest Professor in Rejkjavik and received 2020 the Mary Douglas Award at Lausanne University. Her work has been shaped by her participation in the Peaceful Revolution 1989 in East-Germany, her life in Johannesburg, Bamako and Jerusalem as well as her research on Mongolia, South Korea and Japan. Auga’s specialisations include postcolonial, post-secular, gender/queer, posthuman epistemology and religions; gender and religion in transition processes; visuality and the space age. Her current main interests focus on the study of culture, religion, super-diversity in transition processes in the 20/21 century (Europe, Africa, Middle East, East Asia). Auga, Ulrike, An Epistemology of Religion and Gender: Biopolitics – Performativity – Agency, London/New York: Routledge, 2020.

Panel: „Decolonial Approaches Towards Social Transformation. Potentials of African Biblical Hermeneutics as Sources of New Theological Insights for Social Change.”

The German–South African International Research Training Group (IRTG) Transformative Religion: Religion as situated knowledge in processes of social transformation is happy to invite you to a panel on Potentials of African Biblical Hermeneutics as Sources of New Theological Insights for Social Transformation.

The IRTG program broadly focuses on religion as situated knowledge in processes of social transformation from a decolonial and transdisciplinary perspective.

Reading Christian scripture from an Afrocentric point of view African biblical hermeneutics contribute to debates on decolonizing social transformation in several ways. Such readings not only challenge Western secular notions of “development” that have been disseminated with colonial modernity but also challenge interpretative hegemony of Eurocentric biblical readings enriching it with perspectives built on African knowledge.

The panel seeks to address questions of who’s reading matters, what constitutes an African or Afrocentric reading, what enriching African knowledge can be found through an Afrocentric reading of Christian scripture and what role mother tongue plays in the interpretational process.

The objective is to unfold the liberational and transformational potentials of African biblical hermeneutics and its contributions towards societal wellbeing – rebuilding societies in decolonized terms.



Madipoane Masenya (Ngwan’a Mphahlele) is a Professor, Biblical and Ancient Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa. Her research focus is Hebrew Bible and gender, especially in African contexts. She served as one of the associate editors of The Africana Bible: Reading Israel’s Scriptures from Africa and the African Diaspora (Fortress-Augsburg). Her book, How Worthy is the Woman of Worth? Rereading Proverbs 31:10-31 was published by Peter Lang. She has co-edited with K.N. Ngwa, a volume titled, Navigating African Biblical Hermeneutics: Trends and Themes from our Pots and our Calabashes (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2018).

Frederick Mawusi Amevenku is Director (Dean) of Graduate Studies at the Trinity Theological Seminary, Accra, Ghana. His research interests include the New Testament and African Biblical Hermeneutics. He got his PhD at Stellenbosch University, Western Cape, SA. He is one of the editors of a volume in Biblical Exegesis in the African Context. Interpreting, Translating and Rooting the Bible in the Sub-Saharan Context: Essays on African Biblical Hermeneutics. Regnum Africa, 2022, pp (at press) and one the authors of Biblical Exegesis in the African Context Vernon 2022. He is ordained minister of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church Ghana (EPCG).

Guest Lecture: „Decolonizing the Public University: Views from the South African Experience“

The public university in the global South has been correctly diagnosed and classified as an imperial/colonial/ apartheid invention, and thus continues to be dis-located and separated from its indigenous/ Black communities.

In this presentation, I attempt to do two things. Firstly, I reflect on the continuing struggles for decolonizing the public university in South Africa through foregrounding and explicating the experiences of Black academics and students in our quest to reclaim ourselves, being and epistemic traditions in the academy. Secondly, I propose three sites, that is, curriculum design, teaching and learning as well as institutional culture(s) – that offer us the decolonial possibilities for real and material change in the public university. I end the presentation with some parting shots on the future of the decolonial university, and its implications for those who continue to occupy the underbelly of global modernity.

Key words: public university; decolonisation; curricula; pedagogy; global South



Professor Mlamuli Nkosingphile Hlatshwayo is an Associate Professor at Ali Mazrui’s Centre for Higher Education Studies at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa. His research interests include theorising higher education transformation and decolonisation in the global South; student movements and re-placing African epistemic traditions in curricula. Prof Hlatshwayo has over 22 peer reviewed publications, over 30 national/international conference presentations, and have given over 32 invited seminars/public lecturers across the South African, US, British and Indian higher education institutions. He holds a PhD in Higher Education Studies and a Masters’ Degree (Cum Laude) in Political and International Studies from Rhodes University. Prof Hlatshwayo was a visiting scholar at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education for 2018-2019. He was the 2020 Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans, the current Jakes Gerwel Distinguished Fellow in Education, as well as the 2021-2022 Andrew W. Mellon Early Career Fellow in higher education. He served as a member of the Council on Higher Education’s 20 year national review of the South African higher education system in 2019-2020. Prof Hlatshwayo’s co-edited book, Decolonising Knowledge and Knowers: Struggles for University Transformation in South Africa, was published with Routledge in 2022.

Panel: „Decolonizing Development“

Talking about development is still considered by many to be an expression of thinking that indicates the global dominance of the Western model of society. Development thinking is suspected, not without good reason, of following a modernisation-theory understanding of social evolution that continues to focus on rationalisation and economic growth despite the consideration of sustainability.

Recently, however, serious changes have occurred in global development discourse. In this context, new attention is given to the social role of religion plays a crucial role. The secularisation narrative and with it the assumption of an increasing loss of public significance of religion arelosing their explanatory power for the present. Alternatives to modernization theory models of social evolution are coming into view and consequently a post-development discourse is gaining ground. It proposes alternative objectives of social evolution, especially from the global South. Voices from the global South are, therefore, increasingly taking a leading role in the discourse on values and norms, goals and criteria of a societal transformation oriented towards sustainability, social justice, equality and democratic participation.

The IRTG „Transformative Religion“ researches the transformative power of religion also in terms of development discourse. This prominent panel on „Decolonizing Development“ promises further inspiration on how to rethink development. What could a practice of development look like that is not oriented towards predefined development goals, such as the UN Agenda 2030, but rather makes situational knowledge fruitful in local contexts? Can religious communities unfold a transformative power due to their situated knowledge of people’s needs and abilities?


Ezra Chitando is a Professor, History and Phenomenology of Religion at the University of Zimbabwe and Theology Consultant for the World Council of Churches. His research and publication interests include religion and: development, security, gender, sexuality, climate change and others. DPhil (UZ 2001); MA (UZ 1993); BA HONS (UZ 1991). Research fellowships: Humboldt Georg Forster Research Award, Bamberg, Germany, 2016; Humboldt Research Fellowship, Bayreuth, Germany, 2004-5; Nordic Africa Institute Guest Researcher, Uppsala, Sweden, 2001; DAAD Scholarship, Bayreuth, Germany, 2001; Short-Term Fulbright Fellowship, New York, 1999; African Guest Researcher, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1997. Doctoral supervision in the following areas: Religion and Gender, HIV, Politics, Leadership, Development, Sexualities, Human Rights, Environment, Biblical Interpretation.

Katherine Marshall is a senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, where she leads the center’s work on religion and global development, and a professor of the practice of development, conflict, and religion in the Walsh School of Foreign Service. She helped to create and now serves as the executive director of the World Faiths Development Dialogue. She is also vice president of the G20 Interfaith Association. Marshall, who worked at the World Bank from 1971 to 2006, has nearly five decades of experience on a wide range of development issues in Africa, Latin America, East Asia, and the Middle East, particularly those facing the world’s poorest countries. She led the World Bank’s faith and ethics initiative between 2000 and 2006.

Aram Ziai is head of the department Development Policy and Postcolonial Studies, which was established as Heisenberg-Professorship of the German Research Foundation (DFG) in 2014. His focus lies in the fields of development theory and policy, postcolonial and Post-Development approaches and global economic governance. He has studied in Aachen and Dublin (MA in sociology, minors history and English literature), got his PhD in political science in Hamburg and his habilitation in political science in Kassel. Afterwards he had research and teaching posts in the universities of Aachen, Magdeburg, Kassel, Amsterdam (UvA), Wien (IE), Bonn (ZEF), Accra (Legon), and Teheran (UT).

Transversal Disputation: „Global Health: How can the concepts of „vulnerability“ and „Deservingness“ faciliate new (situated knowledge based) futures?“

We are happy to invite you to the second Transversal Disputation of the International Research Training Group Transformative Religion. Religion as Situated Knowledge in Processes of Social Transformation. The Transversal Disputations are a format in which guest speakers will discuss issues that ‘transverse’ the IRTG research focus on religion and relate to critical concepts, discourses and practices that circulate in politics, the economy, civil society, local communities. The Transversal Disputations seek to connect academic and public debates around crucial issues of our time concerning religion.

This Transversal Disputation critically addresses the omissions and asymmetrical power relations in current debates on global health. Despite the WHO-definition of “health”, there are otherwise situated understandings and knowledges of what health and well-being are that have increasingly come into circulation. These local and translocal notions about health and well-being are impacted by social transformation, and in turn affect social transformation processes. Nevertheless, global health structures continue to be characterized by power asymmetries rooted in a long history of colonialism, racism, and patriarchal norms. These asymmetries result in the (re)production of social and health inequalities that are being circulated on local, translocal, transnational as well as inter-generational levels. The speakers in this Transversal Disputation will map their respective views on these processes and power asymmetries.

Social science and humanities driven conceptions of vulnerability and deservingness are rather new analytical concepts in health services, as well as in critical global health research and practice. So far, in health-related disciplines, vulnerability finds its niche in applied ethics, where it is largely used to identify groups at increased risk of harm and in need of protection. This understanding has been criticized for reducing vulnerability to a state of victimization and passivity that may reinforce paternalistic interventions – thus legitimizing a hegemonic disposition that perpetuates the asymmetrical power between the “vulnerable” and those offering benevolent protection. In particular, migrants, women of colour, and queer bodies are most vulnerable and subject to these moral regimes.

Starting with a critique of this constellation, the panel discussion extends notions of vulnerability and deservingness to the field of global health by elaborating on examples from (a) health and race in migration research (border politics), and (b) race, gender, and health in a decolonial African lens. The conditions and processes of vulnerability and deservingness will be discussed in light of the challenges of future global health research and practice, as well as articulations of indigenous conceptions of health.

Seth Holmes and Ukhona Mlandu bring particular and contextually rich competencies and perspectives to this topic and we trust that their discussion, with our own IRTG colleagues Ulrike Kluge and Federico Settler, will provoke questions about the social position and local situatedness of individuals in the context of health- inequalities,as well as local/ indigenous knowledge regimes.


Seth M. Holmes is a sociocultural anthropologist and physician and Dean’s Professor at the university of Southern California. He has worked on social hierarchies, health inequities, and the ways in which such asymmetries are naturalized, and resisted in the contexts of transnational im/migration, agrofood systems, and health care. He has received national and international awards from the fields of anthropology, sociology, and geography, including the Margaret Mead Award. In addition to scholarly publications, he has written for popular media such as The Huffington Post and Salon.com; spoken on multiple NPR, PRI, Pacifica Radio and Radio Billingüe radio programs; and produced the multiple-award winning ethnographic film, First Time Home. Most recently, he was awarded an ERC Consolidator grant focused on invisibilized relations between migrants and the rest of societies through foodsystems.

Ukhona Ntsali Mlandu is an artist, activist and decolonial critic/ observer based in South Africa. She is currently the director of Greatmore Studios in Cape Town and founder and head curator of makwande.republic in the Goshen Village, Eastern Cape. Her creative and activist work focusses on the lived and embodied experiences of black women, with special reference to the politics of public space and place-making, spatial gender and obstetric justice, as well as heritage and memory. Among her many awards and installations, Mlandu’s recent work included a public art intervention called ukuzibuyisa: giving myself back to myself. She was a finalist for the Birthrites Collective, and is presently working on the embodied archives of black women’s bodies and social lives.

Transversal Disputation: „Political debates on Islam revisited transcontinentally“

We are happy to invite you to the first Transversal Disputation of the International Research Training Group Transformative Religion. Religion as Situated Knowledge in Processes of Social Transformation. The Transversal Disputations are a format, in which guest speakers will discuss issues that ‘transverse’ the IRTG research focus on religion and relate to critical concepts, discourses and practices that circulate in politics, the economy, civil society, local communities. The Transversal Disputations seek to connect academic and public debates around crucial issues of our time concerning religion.

In this first Transversal Disputation two renowned researchers known for their work on the intersection of religion and knowledge production will discuss political debates on Islam from decolonial positions based in different (inter)sections of the global Muslim world. Focusing on social movements in the Middle East and North Africa, Prof Asef Bayat is the author of ‘Post-Islamism: The Changing Faces of Political Islam’ in which he examines the shifting dynamics of Islamist movements at the (inter)section of Islam (as a personalized faith) and individual freedom and choice in diverse Muslim-majority countries. Dr. Abdoulaye Sounaye brings in his scholarly and personal experience of Islam as a social and politial force in the West African Sahel, an area where politicised perceptions of Islam and Muslim epistemes compete in all domains of life with the colonial and post-colonial notions of secularity. The transversal disputation will be moderated by IRTG Professors Naika Foroutan and Baz Lecocq, whose experiences with and insights in political Islam in these (inter)sections of the global Muslim world will serve to initiate the debate.


Asef Bayat is Professor of Sociology, and the Catherine and Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is also an Associate Member of the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM), Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.

Abdoulaye Sounaye is Associate Professor, Universite Abdou Moumouni, Niamey, Niger, and the Head of the research unit „Contested Religion: Between Religiosity, Morality, and Intellectual Culture“ at the Leibnitz-Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin. His current research project “Religion, Morality and Boko in West Africa: Students Training for a Good Life”, is a study of religiosity and how it affects secular education in West Africa.

Naika Foroutan is Professor for integration research and social policy at Humboldt-University where she leads the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research.

Baz Lecocq is Professor of African History, Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt University of Berlin. His research focusses on the contemporary history of the Sahel.

Opening Panel: „Religion as situated knowledge in processes of social transformation and decolonization“

Troubling the social and epistemic origins of religion and social sciences has enjoyed a great deal of attention in recent years. Most significantly, scholarly entanglements with colonial and imperial regimes has seen calls for decolonization of various academic disciplines and methodologies, as well as critical research in this field. As societies with histories of colonialism and segregation, both South Africa and Germany have experienced postcolonial transformations to their social fabric, and both countries have seen increasing calls for more critical research on coloniality, religion and social transformation. Our project, Religion as Situated Knowledge is one such effort to bring into conversation scholars and research from the Southern Africa and Germany to interrogate the ways that religion has shaped, and has been shaped by different relations to power. We are happy to invite you to this opening panel of the IRTG on Religion as situated knowledge in processes of social transformation and decolonization. It will explore several key questions related to religion from different contexts, lived and embodied experiences, and not only expose the coloniality inherent within the academic enterprise, but also show how it might open new avenues about what religious experiences, worldviews and engagements count as knowledge and what ramifications this might have for social transformation processes in Southern Africa, and Germany.

In an effort to launch our own efforts to trouble the coloniality of religion and social sciences, we brought together three established researchers known for their work on the intersection of religion and knowledge production, and especially its relation to social transformation. Prof Nelson Maldonado-Torres brings his keen observations about coloniality of being, of power and of knowledge in the Americas and Southern Africa, while Prof Birgit Meyer’s work on material religion in social transformative processes in West Africa and Europe might make decisive contributions to how we think about migration development and national identity. Finally, Claudia Jahnel’s work on intercultural theology and the body in a range of empirical context will complete the panel which will be convened by our own Prof Federico Settler.


Nelson Maldonado-Torres is a Professor at the Department of Latino and Caribbean Studies and the Comparative Literature Program at the Rutgers School of Arts and Science. He is particularly interested in the crossings of different genealogies of thinking, and their appearance in different genres of writing, discourses, artistic expressions, and social movements. 

Birgit Meyer is a Professor for Religious Studies at the Universiteit Utrecht. Trained as a cultural anthropologist andworking on lived religion in Ghana for more than 20 years, Birgit Meyer studies religion from a global and postsecularperspective.

Claudia Jahnel is a Professor for Intercultural Theology and Embodiment at the Ruhr University Bochum. She is especially interested in theological and religious hybridity, identities, and deconstruction of othering.