Thematic course: Religious Reform Movements in Africa

Course content

The religious landscape of contemporary Africa is characterized by the presence of highly profiled religious reform movements. Pentecostal and Islamic movements are not only important agents of religious change but are also among the most visible and effective movements of social mobilization in contemporary Africa. An ongoing scholarly debate focuses on the differences and similarities between Christian and Islamic reform movements. In the context of this debate the courses will discuss selected reform movements in both their social dimensions (social organization, recruitment, political and social role, links with global religious networks) and their religious dimensions (theological ideas, notions of power and social reform, links with international intellectual developments in the Christian and Islamic world).


MA programme in African Studies

Learning outcome

The aim is for the student to acquire the following qualifications, insights and selected practical skills in relation to:


  • acquiring an overview of religious reform movements in Africa
  • developing the skill to select sub-topics within the general theme of the course
  • developing competence in identifying literature and primary sources relevant for the field

being able to place the selected sub-topic within the general theme of the course

The teaching will be based on lectures and on joint class discussions of the literature and texts. The course is organised in sessions of 2 hours twice per week over 7 weeks in the second half of the second semester.

The suggested preliminary course literature will include:


Africa, vol. 86(4), 2016, pp. 615-697 (special issue on Christian-Muslim encounters  with contributions by J.D.Y. Peel, Marloes Janson, Birgit Meyer, Brian Larkin, Ebenezer Obadare and Benjamin Soares)


Brian Larkin and Birgit Meyer, “Pentecostalism, Islam and culture: new religious movements in West Africa”, in Emmanuel Akyeampong (ed.), Themes in West Africa’s History, Oxford, James Currey, 2006.


Roman Loimeier, Islamic Reform in Twentieth-Century Africa, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2018 (selected chapters).

J.D.Y. Peel, Christianity, Islam and Orisa Religion. Three traditions in comparison and interaction, Oakland CA, University of California Press, 2016 (selected chapters).


Alexander Thurston, Boko Haram. The History of an African Jihadist Movement, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2018.


Asonzeh Ukah, A New Paradigm for Charismatic Power. A Study of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria, Trenton NJ, Africa World Press, 2008

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
A written paper on a topic of the student’s own choosing comprising 24,000-28,800 characters.

Students can participate in and register for group examination in thematic courses without having a dispensation and approval from the study board. The students must register the group at the exam office. A group can consist of a maximum of three students.
For written group exams the requirements for the combined reading list and the length of the paper is the same as when writing individually, i.e. the length is multiplied by the number of students in the group. The authors of the individual sections must be clearly identified in the exam paper. For all group exams students will be given individual grades.
All three exam attempts for a given thematic course have to be conducted within a year following the conclusion of the course.
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Internal censorship

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Course Preparation
  • 122
  • Exam
  • 60
  • English
  • 210