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IUPUI Professor Edward E. Curtis Co-Founds Journal of Africana Religions


Edward E. Curtis IV
Edward E. Curtis IV

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February 15, 2012

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Edward E. Curtis IV, professor of religious studies in the School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has co-founded the Journal of Africana Religions, the world’s only refereed journal devoted to research on the religions of African-descended people in global perspective.

“This journal signifies a rich coming-of-age in the study of African and African Diasporic studies,” said scholar, author and activist Cornel West.

Pennsylvania State University Press will publish the Journal of Africana Religions quarterly in both print and electronic form starting in January 2013. The journal will focus on the religious experiences and expressions of African-descended people in addition to religious traditions influenced by the diverse cultural heritage of Africa.

Curtis, also Millennium Chair of the Liberal Arts at IUPUI, emphasized the journal’s inclusive scope.

“It’s not our job to argue for one authentic and authoritative black religious experience,” he said. “We are going to look at it all -- the religious experiences of African-descended Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, as well as those who follow Yoruba, Nuer, San or ancient Egyptian religious traditions.”

“It’s an exciting and much-needed scholarly development,” said West’s colleague, Princeton Professor Judith Weisenfeld. “That this comparative discussion will take place across a range of religions, regions and methodological perspectives makes it a unique intellectual project in the study of African and diaspora religions.”

Weisenfeld is a member of the journal’s 33-member international editorial board, which includes historians, anthropologists, sociologists, literature scholars and religious studies scholars from Africa, Europe and the Americas. In addition, it boasts the presence of two former presidents of the American Academy of Religion.

Journal of Africana Religions co-founder Sylvester Johnson, associate professor of African American studies and religious studies at Northwestern University, explained that the understanding of Africana religions has been hampered in the past by a severing of African Diasporic religions from the study of religion on the African continent.

“Now, focusing on the connections and disconnections among Africana religions across national and regional lines has become a normative standard for scholarly excellence,” he said.

“There is a great need for a journal of this type,” said IUPUI associate professor of religious studies Kelly Hayes, who also serves on the journal’s editorial board. There is “no other interdisciplinary journal that focuses on religions of Africa and its diaspora.”

Institutional sponsors of the journal include Northwestern University and the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

The journal is also co-sponsored by the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora.

According to ASWAD Director Kim D. Butler, the journal will be critical to correcting past misrepresentations of black religions. “The Journal of Africana Religions is a welcome addition to scholarship on a vitally important aspect of African Diaspora experience, and the spiritual underpinnings of much of the Western world,” she said.

Both Curtis and Johnson hope the journal encourages the growth of academic interest in Africana religions. “Africana religions represent an irreplaceable component of humanity’s religious heritage,” they said, “and this journal will encourage more scholars and universities to devote time and resources to understanding them.”