Religious pathways to better futures


“Religious pathways to better futures”


Panel at the conference of the

African Studies Association in Germany from

June 11th to 14th 2014



Religious pathways to better futures

Religious groups in Africa are not only an important source of imaginations of the future they are also remarkably active in their efforts to realize them. Thereby different religious groups articulate quite different visions on the future of their society, of Africa, the world or of mankind and follow different ways to pursue their goals: Some groups might opt for public prayers, some for violence, some see in education the best way to realize their visions, some form political parties, and still others search for support in transnational networks or establish faith-based-organizations and try to link their future imaginaries to those of the donors in the world of development. To approach the expected future and to change society in their spirit, most religious groups act publicly and enter national and transnational spheres where other actors, ideas and interest are already present. Thus,looking at differing religious visions on the future and at the ways they are translated into practice, raises questions about the forms of public religion and interest articulation in a national and transnational setting as well as questions about religious diversity within a society.

The panel invites speakers to present empirical studies of religious groups and the futures they propose/expect, and to address especially the ways these groups follow to attain their goals. Considering the issues of change, of the plurality of visions and ways and of national/transnational public religions, we would like to discuss questions such as:

  • How do “religious futures” look like and what are the religious concepts of man, society and the world that allow for “religious engineering”?
  • To what extent do shared religious visions of the future provide a basis for forming a religious group in the first place (e.g. in migration or development contexts)? What are the contexts in which religious concepts of the future flourish?
  • Is there a connection between the kind of future that is imagined and the instruments chosen for its realization? When do groups for example focus on local, when on transnational activities?
  • Do religious visions of the future change as actors make them public, struggle with the challenges of their implementation and encounter other visions within a pluralistic context?
  • How do activities of different religious groups connect or conflict with each other, as well as with political activities or with those of national / international development organizations?
  • What are the consequences of national and transnational competition or cooperation between several (religious and non-religious) versions of the future and ways of implementation?
  • How do groups deal with the plurality of universalisms in the world and how wide is the scope for multiple futures in a given society?


Panel convenors :

Katrin Langewiesche (Universität Mainz):

Eva Spies (Universität Mainz):


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