SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Africa

Religion In Africa

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year



Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

This course is intended to introduce students to the complexity and dynamics of religious conceptualisation and practice in sub-Saharan Africa. The primary emphasis is on indigenous religions, although interactions with Islam and Christianity are also discussed.


Total of 22 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

The course explores various aspects of religious experience and explanation through such themes as ritual (and its performative and participatory aspects), spirit possession, divination, healing and concepts of divinity, spirit, ancestors and ‘witches’. These themes are illustrated with specific examples taken from different regions of Africa, including examples of African religious expression in the Diaspora. The approach is generally historical, focusing on religious change and innovation. The course provides students with a comparative conceptual framework for the study of religion in Africa.


Method of assessment

One written paper (70%) taken in May/June; one essay of 2,500 to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 2 (15%); one essay of 2,500 to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (15%).

Suggested reading

The reading list for this course will be made available from the convenor at the beginning of the course.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules