Religious sources of languages of citizenship in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: History

Abstract

We are used to thinking of citizenship as something conferred by bounded nation-states, bestowing formalised rights and obligations on rationally-minded recipients. In this sense, citizenship was limited to a privileged few in many parts of the world until the dissolution of empires and the formation of new nation states in the mid-twentieth century. But despite the rarity of legal citizenship in colonial empires, African colonial territories were alive with groups that sought to establish allegiances and entitlements in the places where the dramatic social changes that preceded and accompanied colonisation had deposited them. In particular, African actors often drew on religious languages, Christian, Muslim as well as indigenous, to make these claims. They often combined them with stories of migration that asserted that foreign origins were an asset, not a shortcoming. These eclectic 'languages of citizenship' - whose practitioners frequently claimed heavenly inspiration - were constantly on the move, crossing colonial and later national boundaries through the circulation of activists, pilgrims and scholars across oceans and land. The research network starts with the proposition that these trans-regional forms of allegiance, and the debates they provoked between and amongst different claims-makers, constituted important, and rarely-studied, forms of citizenship in nineteenth-and twentieth-century Africa.

In order to investigate these mobile 'languages of citizenship', the research network proposes an innovative interdisciplinary approach. It builds upon a growing scholarship of exchanges across regions and oceans in understanding cultural, political and social processes in Africa. In particular, the network seeks to bring together scholars of Atlantic and Indian Ocean Africa, and of Muslim and Christian communities in these regions. These scholars often work in isolation from each other; their cooperation will illuminate the trans-regional sources of religious idioms in Africa, the way they circulated, and their role in allowing marginal groups to claim citizenship. The proposed network forms part of an on-going effort to connect insights from the neighbouring disciplines of history, anthropology, religious studies, and literary and cultural studies. These connections will contribute to a deeper understanding of informal ways of collective claims-making in Africa, and of their important consequences for contemporary politics. The concept of 'languages of citizenship' allows the network to consider rhetoric, text and performance, which were important parts of the way Africans debated citizenship. Finally, the network seeks to break out of the conceptual and geographic 'boxes' of colonial territory and post-colonial nation-states by studying the trans-regional mobility of the religious traditions deployed in African languages of citizenship.

The network is premised on the conviction that the study of 'languages of citizenship' is relevant beyond the academy. In today's trans-national world, and in Britain's diasporic constituencies, idioms drawn from many sources not automatically identified as political, such as religious traditions, play an important public role. In both Africa and its diaspora, politics does not merely operate through formal, state channels; informal affiliations and religious loyalties shape citizens' allegiances. Understanding these forces is crucial to policy makers, public educators and grassroots communities in Africa, as well as to those in the UK concerned with relations with Africa, and African migrants in the UK. Network participants will open their research to public engagement by providing a platform for speakers who straddle the divide between academics and practitioners, and by disseminating their activities through electronic and 'virtual' media.

Planned Impact

The proposed research network aims to provide useful insights to policy makers, public sector charities, community groups and interested citizens. Improved understanding of the forces shaping visions of citizenship in an increasingly trans-national world is important to all of these players. Increasingly, politics does not operate solely through formal, state channels. Rather, informal affiliations and loyalties, such as religious ones, exercise an important influence on conceptions of identity and social affiliations among citizens in both the global north and the south. The analysis of forms of citizenship emerging from interaction between different - religious, cultural, political - languages of claims-making, allegiance and entitlement can provide crucial input for mediation both within and between communities and for policy makers.

The project has clear political implications. By examining interactions between religious and secular ways of claiming citizenship, the network will contribute to the understanding of civic conflicts involving members of different faith as well as civic communities. By emphasizing the multiple factors at play in these complex encounters, the research findings will modify reified theories such as that of a clash between 'tradition' and 'modernity' or of inevitable Christian-Muslim conflict. Instead, the network will supply policy makers with evidence of the complex inter-play of social, geographical and political factors that fuel such conflicts, and providing examples of successful mediation.

The published research will provide policy-makers and activists with detailed case-studies of civic identities in the developing world that are increasingly tied to Europe by migration, economic interaction and trans-national religious politics. Potential beneficiaries include the Department of International Development, which has recently funded studies in the role of religion in development that are kindred to the network's interests, as well as NGOs, including faith-based organizations such as Catholic Relief and the Aga Khan foundation.

Network investigators have made contacts with leaders of African faith communities in the UK with whom they intend to communicate research network results for further discussion. For instance, SOAS has links with representatives of migrant faith communities within Britain, who can transmit the networks' insights back to their peers. The Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme provides similar networking resources. The proposed network aims at promoting constructive conversations among people involved in the processes of claims-making that are under study in this project, rather than providing ready-made validating narratives.

The network will partner with UK-based public sector charities and think-tanks dealing with inter-religious dialogue and diasporic citizenship in this country, and internationally. Organizations such as the Co-Exist Foundation in London, and the Cambridge Interfaith Programme attached to the University of Cambridge, facilitate dialogue between the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) both within the academy, and between the academy and the wider public, through public talks, day-long workshops and exhibitions. Others, like the Centre for History and Policy in Cambridge, specialize in transmitting academic insights to policy makers. The proposed network will invite representatives of these organizations to its events and co-host events involving representatives of different faith and civic communities from Africa.

Further, the project will pay attention to the role of technology and media, from cinema to the internet, in reformulating notions of citizenship and in disseminating its results. It thereby contributes to the effort to broaden access to academic discussion, and to understand how such concepts travel between communities, how they can change in the process and how they are re-deployed in new social contexts.
 
Description The key findings of this research concerned the way different constituencies in Africa claimed belonging and entitlements by drawing on religious languages of citizenship. We found that these processes were very widespread and varied, and involved constituencies not previously associated with them. They were also quite conflict-ridden.
Exploitation Route These findings would be interesting for policy-makers trying to understand religious activities and tensions in African immigrant communities or in Africa itself.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
 
Description Some of our findings were used by participants in the symposium we held at SOAS, in order to start a dialogue between representatives of different religious constituencies.
Sector Other
Impact Types Societal
 
Description AHRC Early Careers Fellowship
Amount £210,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 01/2015 
 
Description Cambridge Humanities Small Grant Scheme
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Cambridge 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 09/2013 
 
Description EU FP 7 Marie Curie Career Integration Grant
Amount € 100,000 (EUR)
Organisation Marie Curie Actions 
Sector Academic/University
Country Global
Start 03/2012 
 
Description Gerda Henkel Foundation, special programme on Islam and transnational movements
Amount € 133,000 (EUR)
Organisation Gerda Henkel Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Germany, Federal Republic of
Start 06/2014 
End 09/2016
 
Description conference grant
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation British Council - Newton Fund 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 04/2016 
End 03/2017
 
Description Workshop on 'Languages of Citizenship across the Indian Ocean', March 2012. 
Organisation Johns Hopkins University
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the conference, invited participants and drew up the programme. We set out its aims in introductory comments and summed up preliminary findings at the end.
Collaborator Contribution There were twelve speakers at the conference; they explored aspects of the topic ranging from conflicts about citizenship in Zanzibar to print culture in Dar es Salaam to the citizenship practices of Muslims in Mozambique.
Impact Journal special issue in the Journal of African History on Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Workshop on 'Languages of Citizenship across the Indian Ocean', March 2012. 
Organisation Northwestern University Chicago
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the conference, invited participants and drew up the programme. We set out its aims in introductory comments and summed up preliminary findings at the end.
Collaborator Contribution There were twelve speakers at the conference; they explored aspects of the topic ranging from conflicts about citizenship in Zanzibar to print culture in Dar es Salaam to the citizenship practices of Muslims in Mozambique.
Impact Journal special issue in the Journal of African History on Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Workshop on 'Languages of Citizenship across the Indian Ocean', March 2012. 
Organisation Roskilde University
Country Denmark, Kingdom of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the conference, invited participants and drew up the programme. We set out its aims in introductory comments and summed up preliminary findings at the end.
Collaborator Contribution There were twelve speakers at the conference; they explored aspects of the topic ranging from conflicts about citizenship in Zanzibar to print culture in Dar es Salaam to the citizenship practices of Muslims in Mozambique.
Impact Journal special issue in the Journal of African History on Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Workshop on 'Languages of Citizenship across the Indian Ocean', March 2012. 
Organisation University of Basel (Universität Basel)
Country Switzerland, Swiss Confederation 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the conference, invited participants and drew up the programme. We set out its aims in introductory comments and summed up preliminary findings at the end.
Collaborator Contribution There were twelve speakers at the conference; they explored aspects of the topic ranging from conflicts about citizenship in Zanzibar to print culture in Dar es Salaam to the citizenship practices of Muslims in Mozambique.
Impact Journal special issue in the Journal of African History on Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Workshop on 'Languages of Citizenship across the Indian Ocean', March 2012. 
Organisation University of Illinois
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the conference, invited participants and drew up the programme. We set out its aims in introductory comments and summed up preliminary findings at the end.
Collaborator Contribution There were twelve speakers at the conference; they explored aspects of the topic ranging from conflicts about citizenship in Zanzibar to print culture in Dar es Salaam to the citizenship practices of Muslims in Mozambique.
Impact Journal special issue in the Journal of African History on Africa and the Indian Ocean.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Workshop on 'Women, Religion and Power in Modern Africa: beyond Consent and Dissent', University of Cambridge, January 2014. 
Organisation School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution There were fifteen talks at this conference. They explored the way women in Africa have participated in religious practice and innovation, and how these activities intersected with women's struggles for citizenship and accommodation into political and social hierarchies. A selection of the articles is now under discussion and revision for submission to 'Signs'.
Collaborator Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised every aspect of this workshop.
Impact Special issue of the journal 'Signs'. This will be multi-disciplinary, involving historians and anthropologists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Workshop on 'Women, Religion and Power in Modern Africa: beyond Consent and Dissent', University of Cambridge, January 2014. 
Organisation State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution There were fifteen talks at this conference. They explored the way women in Africa have participated in religious practice and innovation, and how these activities intersected with women's struggles for citizenship and accommodation into political and social hierarchies. A selection of the articles is now under discussion and revision for submission to 'Signs'.
Collaborator Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised every aspect of this workshop.
Impact Special issue of the journal 'Signs'. This will be multi-disciplinary, involving historians and anthropologists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Workshop on 'Women, Religion and Power in Modern Africa: beyond Consent and Dissent', University of Cambridge, January 2014. 
Organisation Tulane University
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution There were fifteen talks at this conference. They explored the way women in Africa have participated in religious practice and innovation, and how these activities intersected with women's struggles for citizenship and accommodation into political and social hierarchies. A selection of the articles is now under discussion and revision for submission to 'Signs'.
Collaborator Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised every aspect of this workshop.
Impact Special issue of the journal 'Signs'. This will be multi-disciplinary, involving historians and anthropologists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Workshop on 'Women, Religion and Power in Modern Africa: beyond Consent and Dissent', University of Cambridge, January 2014. 
Organisation University of Cologne
Country Germany, Federal Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution There were fifteen talks at this conference. They explored the way women in Africa have participated in religious practice and innovation, and how these activities intersected with women's struggles for citizenship and accommodation into political and social hierarchies. A selection of the articles is now under discussion and revision for submission to 'Signs'.
Collaborator Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised every aspect of this workshop.
Impact Special issue of the journal 'Signs'. This will be multi-disciplinary, involving historians and anthropologists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Workshop on 'Women, Religion and Power in Modern Africa: beyond Consent and Dissent', University of Cambridge, January 2014. 
Organisation Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin
Country Germany, Federal Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution There were fifteen talks at this conference. They explored the way women in Africa have participated in religious practice and innovation, and how these activities intersected with women's struggles for citizenship and accommodation into political and social hierarchies. A selection of the articles is now under discussion and revision for submission to 'Signs'.
Collaborator Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised every aspect of this workshop.
Impact Special issue of the journal 'Signs'. This will be multi-disciplinary, involving historians and anthropologists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description workshop on 'Religion, Media and Marginality in Modern Africa', School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, March 2013 
Organisation Bowdoin College
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the workshop.
Collaborator Contribution There were eighteen talks at the workshop, ranging in topic from Muslim vigilantes in Cape Town, South Africa, to dissident Christians in late-colonial Zambia. They showed that religious affiliation and change were very important in contesting marginality and making claims to citizenship.
Impact Edited volume on religion, media and marginality in modern Africa. This is a multi-disciplinary volume, comprising historians, anthropologists, literary scholars and religious studies specialists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description workshop on 'Religion, Media and Marginality in Modern Africa', School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, March 2013 
Organisation Duke University
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the workshop.
Collaborator Contribution There were eighteen talks at the workshop, ranging in topic from Muslim vigilantes in Cape Town, South Africa, to dissident Christians in late-colonial Zambia. They showed that religious affiliation and change were very important in contesting marginality and making claims to citizenship.
Impact Edited volume on religion, media and marginality in modern Africa. This is a multi-disciplinary volume, comprising historians, anthropologists, literary scholars and religious studies specialists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description workshop on 'Religion, Media and Marginality in Modern Africa', School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, March 2013 
Organisation School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the workshop.
Collaborator Contribution There were eighteen talks at the workshop, ranging in topic from Muslim vigilantes in Cape Town, South Africa, to dissident Christians in late-colonial Zambia. They showed that religious affiliation and change were very important in contesting marginality and making claims to citizenship.
Impact Edited volume on religion, media and marginality in modern Africa. This is a multi-disciplinary volume, comprising historians, anthropologists, literary scholars and religious studies specialists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description workshop on 'Religion, Media and Marginality in Modern Africa', School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, March 2013 
Organisation University of Cologne
Country Germany, Federal Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the workshop.
Collaborator Contribution There were eighteen talks at the workshop, ranging in topic from Muslim vigilantes in Cape Town, South Africa, to dissident Christians in late-colonial Zambia. They showed that religious affiliation and change were very important in contesting marginality and making claims to citizenship.
Impact Edited volume on religion, media and marginality in modern Africa. This is a multi-disciplinary volume, comprising historians, anthropologists, literary scholars and religious studies specialists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description workshop on 'Religion, Media and Marginality in Modern Africa', School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, March 2013 
Organisation University of Michigan
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the workshop.
Collaborator Contribution There were eighteen talks at the workshop, ranging in topic from Muslim vigilantes in Cape Town, South Africa, to dissident Christians in late-colonial Zambia. They showed that religious affiliation and change were very important in contesting marginality and making claims to citizenship.
Impact Edited volume on religion, media and marginality in modern Africa. This is a multi-disciplinary volume, comprising historians, anthropologists, literary scholars and religious studies specialists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description workshop on 'Religion, Media and Marginality in Modern Africa', School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, March 2013 
Organisation University of the Witwatersrand
Country South Africa, Republic of 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joel Cabrita and I organised all aspects of the workshop.
Collaborator Contribution There were eighteen talks at the workshop, ranging in topic from Muslim vigilantes in Cape Town, South Africa, to dissident Christians in late-colonial Zambia. They showed that religious affiliation and change were very important in contesting marginality and making claims to citizenship.
Impact Edited volume on religion, media and marginality in modern Africa. This is a multi-disciplinary volume, comprising historians, anthropologists, literary scholars and religious studies specialists.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Conference panel on religion and media in modern Africa 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The talks sparked questions and discussion.

The talks provided contrasting viewpoints and forced the audience to consider very different interpretations of similar events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Joel Cabrita, 'Religion and Diaspora: African Migrants' Religious Networks in Britain and Europe' (online article) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The article was published in a well-known and widely used multi-blogging site for all things African, 'African Arguments'. It is sponsored by the Royal African Society and thus liable to reach a wide audience.

The article helped raise interest for the Symposium on Religion and the African Diaspora.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://africanarguments.org/2012/11/13/religion-and-diaspora-african-migrants%E2%80%99-religious-net...
 
Description Public symposium, School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Title 'Religion and languages of citizenship in the African diaspora' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The event brought together representatives of African Muslim and Christian groups in the UK, academics working on religion among African diasporic groups in the UK, Sweden and Denmark, and interested members of the public. It encompassed about a dozen presentations, all of which sparked questions and discussion.

The symposium introduced people with similar interests to each other, resulting in subsequent networking and information-sharing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012