Amma Prempeh

Amma Prempeh is a sophomore from San Francisco, majoring in Anthropology and Global Health Policy, in order to explore the intersections and intricacies of culture, development, and wellbeing.

To conclude that religion is a victim to modernity and globalization is to neglect the profound religious growth found in the Global South. This paper intends to go about “bringing those absent”[1] from such discourse in by addressing African transnational religious practices and their influence on international relations. The most devout nations are located on the continent of Africa and it stands to reason the tenets rising from such devotions perform a role in the formation and conduct of diplomatic strategies. It emerges from the idea that religious bodies and beliefs are uniquely migrant actors, that contribute to identity formation by offering shared goals and histories. It will address the prominent role of Christian and Islamic institutions, as well as the re-emerging influence of traditionalist religions which bridge ethnic communities divided only by colonially-established borders. Finally, it considers the power of religious diplomacy in future matters of international cooperation.

We begin with engaging in the Africanization[2] of the study of diplomacy. As offered by professor of theology at the University of Zimbabwe, Ezra Chitando, the Africanization of research subjects has two requirements: firstly, recognizing the high degree to which African studies are conducted and evaluated within Western thought systems, and, in order to correct this, allowing indigenous African individuals and theories to dominate the inquiry. Therefore, this paper draws on the research of diverse Africanist scholars and normalizes continental trends, such as the widespread adherence to and expression of some form of spirituality.

Measuring diplomacy as international relations by negotiation and by other peaceful means, and a craft of shared norms and rituals[3], it becomes evident how religious beliefs held by African leaders or nations may influence the practice. Religious leadership are often unrecognized actors in foreign policy formation. In an African sense, where religiosity is centered and highlighted in everyday life and politics, we must engage with religious diplomacy between countries, recognizing the soft power of these actors in regional politics.

This paper examines three systems: Islamic institutions, which have taken on a growing role in the policing of extreme in African, Christian communities, which are an artefact the unconventional African-Western relations, and traditionalist spiritualities which, due to diaspora, are necessarily transnational in nature, in order to develop a nuanced survey of Africa’s religious actors.

[1] Chitando, Ezra, Afe Adogame and Bolaji Bateye. “African Traditions in the Study of Religion in Africa: Contending with Gender, the Vitality of Indigenous Religions, and Diaspora”. African Traditions in the Study of Religion, Diaspora and Gendered Societies. Ashgate, 2013, pp. 1-9.

[2] Ibid, 133.

[3] Jönsson, Christer and Karin Aggestam, “Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution.” NISA conference on “Power, Vision and Order in World Politics”, Odense, 23-25 May, 2007.