Religion and Social Change

Picture of a poster in front of church that says Do you believe in miracle?Photo: Karen Lauterbach

Research in this field is based on the assumption that the understanding of the role of religion in African societies is not just of interest to specialists but represents an important dimension of most aspects of social life in sub-Saharan Africa.
The fundamental social and political significance of religion has several dimensions:‬‬‬‬‬‬

  • ‭Religious traditions shape the ways many Africans think about politics and power.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
  • ‭Religious institutions have been among the most stable and very often the only functioning, bodies in civil society in Africa.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
  • Religious organizations and institutions often function as both national and local political organizations and institutions.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
  • Religious communities often play a crucial role as local development agents.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
  • To many Africans religious groups provide the most important access to globalizations thanks to the transnational character of contemporary Christian and Muslim movements in Africa.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Individual research focuses on different religious traditions in Africa (Christianity, Islam and African ‘traditional' religions) in their historical and contemporary forms, and employs a variety of methods from the humanities and the social sciences. It deals with religion as an individual and a social phenomenon and includes spiritual, cognitive and sociological dimensions of religious life in Africa‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Central research questions concern:‬‬‬‬‬‬

  • The historical significance of world religions for the development of African societiety
  • ‭Christianity and Islam as sources of identity‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
  • The links between religion and political organization and mobilization‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
  • The role of religious institutions as non-state actors and providers of public goods and services‬‬‬

Platform Researchers:

Karen Lauterbach, Associate Professor and Platform leader
Niels Kastfelt, Associate Professor Emeritus
Hans Olsson, Postdoctoral Researcher
Holger Bernt Hansen, Professor Emeritus
Primus Tazanu, Guest Researcher
Hamida Massaquoi, PhD student