Transformative Religion
Religion as Situated Knowledge in Processes of Social Transformation

International Research Training Group

Event Archive

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



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; 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.

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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.