Rosalind Hackett's Home Page
Note: the Yoruba door post and border design are taken from
Diane Fox's magnificent design for our 1996 Africa Week poster.
Born in Birmingham, in the
English Midlands (or ‘Middle Earth’ according to Tolkien), I
High School for Girls
before heading north to Leeds
University. I was the
first student there to take a combined honors degree in French and Religious
Studies. As part of my degree, I spent one year teaching English in a school in
and conducting research on France's
first ecumenical church. That was where I developed a taste for fieldwork,
skiing and French cooking, together with a new awareness of my liver. After
obtaining a postgraduate teaching diploma in 1974 from St. Luke's College, Exeter, I moved on to
King's College at the University
of London to do an M.Phil
in Religious Studies. This was somehow carried out part-time while I was
teaching French, Religious Education, and physical education at a Roman
Catholic secondary school in Reading.
It was at this school that I learnt that teaching was definitely not for the
Having decided that archival
research was not my cup of tea, I took off in the mid-1970s for Nigeria to
conduct research there on new religious movements, and religion and social
change. I ended up staying for eight life-transforming years (1975-83), during
which time I taught at the Universities of Ibadan and Calabar. This research
formed the basis of my two higher degrees (M.Phil London, 1978 and PhD in
Religious Studies, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, 1986) and many
publications, notably my edited book, New Religious Movements in Nigeria
(1987) and Religion in Calabar: the Religious Life and History of a Nigerian
Town (1989). The latter is an ethnographic and historical analysis of
religious pluralism in the town of Calabar
in south-eastern Nigeria.
It involved a comprehensive mapping of the town's religious institutions
together with discussion of more popular religious developments.
I broke into the
North American scene in 1984 with a Copeland fellowship at Amherst College
in 1984, followed by two years of teaching and consultancy in Washington, D.C.
I was then lured further south to take up an appointment at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to serve as the resident
anthropologist in the department of Religious Studies, with special
responsibility for courses in indigenous, notably African, religions. Today I
teach courses in Anthropology of Religion, African Religions, and New Religious
Movements, Theory and Method in the Study of Religion, Human Rights and
Religion, and Religion and Art. I won a Research and Creativity award in 1991,
an Alumni Outstanding Teaching Award in 1995, a Lindsay Young distinguished
professorship in the College of Arts and Sciences 1998-2000 and a Distinguished
Professorship from 2002-2008. I am also an adjunct professor in the Department
of Anthropology, and so unabashedly favor double majors in Religious Studies
My book, Art and Religion in Africa (Cassell
1996, pbk 1998) kept me busy for five years visiting museums, libraries,
artists, and galleries in Europe, North America and Africa.
In it I argue that given the conceptual orientation of much African art, and
the study and appreciation of Africa's rich
and diverse artistic traditions, remain incomplete without an understanding
of the religious dimension.
also problematize the categories of art and religion within the African
context, and their varied interconnections. My own "conversion" to
taking art more seriously has led to other publications and lectures. Greater
attention to the material and expressive culture in the academic study of
religion is particularly revealing of gendered roles and symbolism (and vice
versa). This is discussed in an article which appeared in the special issue of Religion
on "Recent Research on Religion and Gender, guest edited by Sylvia Marcos
and myself. I have also been interested by the roles of women in African
religions, and have published a number of pieces in this regard: "Women
and New Religious Movements in Africa" in Ursula King's Religion and
Gender (Blackwell 1995), "Women in African Religions," in Religion
and Women, edited by Arvind Sharma (SUNY 1993), and "From Exclusion to
Inclusion: Women and Bible Use in Southern Nigeria" in Davies and
Wollaston, eds., The Sociology of Sacred Texts (Sheffield Academic
Press, 1993). Over the years I have developed a strong interest in mermaids and water spirits. For the reasons why see a semi-autobiographical piece I did for an upcoming
exhibition on Mami Wata (curated by Henry John Drewal at UCLA Fowler
My interests in
art, gender and religion extend beyond the academic. This is a gate I
commissioned at the entrance to my (secret) garden. It represents the Yoruba goddess of the
waters, Oshun. Executed in iron, it also pays complementary homage to Ogun,
the Yoruba god of iron. It was designed by the contemporary Nigerian artist Bolaji Campbell,
and made by metalworker Monica Thomeczek in 1996.
areas I have written on include New Age religion in Africa, "New Age
Trends in Nigeria: Ancestral or Alien Religion?" in Lewis and Melton, eds.
Perspectives on the New Age (SUNY 1992), and the study and teaching of
African religions. My earlier training as a teacher in Britain left its mark,
so see in this regard the special issues I guest edited of Religion (20,4:1990)
on "Images of African Religions" and Spotlight on Teaching
(1,2:1993) on "Teaching African Religions." An additional piece on
"Teaching African Religions through Art and Literature" appeared in
Bastian and Parpart, eds. (1999).
In the 1980s Nigeria's new
religious movements began to look more like transnational evangelical and
Pentecostal movements. The older, independent movements began to be eclipsed by
the newer, arguably American-style, born-again, spirit-filled churches often
founded by well-educated entrepreneurs. I went with the flow and shifted academic
focus. I not only examined different aspects of these movements, see, for
example, my "The Gospel of Prosperity in West Africa" in Roberts, ed.
Religion and the Transformations of Capitalism (Routledge, 1995), but also
decided to track the global flows of these movements by following some of their
evangelists to Asia. I was lucky enough to receive a research grant in 1993-94
from the Research Enablement Program of the Overseas Ministries
funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. This enabled me to travel to Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and South Korea to study the growing
connections between African and Asian Charismatics (see my report in Pneuma
18,1 [spring 1996]).
Something of a
paradigm shift occurred in my work when I was invited to join the
Proselytization Project at Emory
University's Law and
Religion Program. After many years of working as a grassroots member and
organizer with human rights organizations such as Amnesty International in
Nigeria, Britain and the U.S., I was now encouraged to examine some of the human rights implications
of my own research-namely the impact of the greater militancy of the Christian
revivalist movements in Nigeria on issues of religious freedom and pluralism,
notably in terms of Christian-Muslim relations (see, for example, "Radical
Christian Revivalism in Nigeria and Ghana: Recent Patterns of Conflict and
Intolerance." In Proselytization and Communal Self-Determination in
Africa, ed. Abdullahi A.
An-Na'im [Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1999]). Since then, I have
participated in conferences pertaining to international religious freedom in Oslo, Norway,
and Washington, DC. My Utah
presentation, "Conflict in the Classroom: Educational Institutions in Nigeria
as Sites of Tolerance/Intolerance," appeared in the Brigham Young
University Law Review, 2000, 2. I wrote a short op ed piece
on the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for Religious
Studies News (Feb. 2001). I did a lengthy review for a Soundings
symposium of Martha Nussbaum's recent book, Women and Human Development:
the Capabilities Approach (Cambridge UP, 2000) with a focus on the
conflicts between religion and women's rights. For some ideas and
information relating to human rights, see my human rights page. For some
interesting websites pertaining to religious persecution and religious freedom,
FOR FURTHER DETAILS
SEE MY FULL
One of my major ongoing
projects has been to complete a book commissioned by the U.S. Institute of Peace on religious conflict in
It will be titled Nigeria: Religion in the Balance. It is hard to finish
as something always seems to be happening in Nigeria with regard to
religion. I have managed to publish a
piece (2005) on the infamous, apocalyptic Maitatsine movement, an extremist
Muslim group that wrought death and destruction on the city of Kano, in Northern
Nigeria in December 1980.
I have just finished
co-editing a book, Religion in African
Conflicts and Peacebuilding with Sakah Mahmud and James H. Smith for the University of Notre Dame Press. The work stems from our collaboration as
Rockefeller Visiting Fellows at the Joan B. Kroc
Institute of International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in
2003-04. We helped organize a conference
on this topic in Jinja, Uganda, in April 2004.
project is the preparation of the book I am editing on Proselytization Revisited:
Rights Talk, Free Markets, and Culture Wars (London:
Equinox Publishers). It contains nearly
twenty chapters from authors around the world.
It will appear in 2007.
As a result of my Rockefeller Fellowship at the Kroc Institute at the
University of Notre Dame from 2003-04, I became more interested in the role of
religion in the public sphere. See the
piece I wrote for the Brigham Young Law
the Role of Religion in Changing Public Spheres: Some Comparative
Perspectives” (2005). I have
also explored these questions in terms of the new attention to global religious
violence, and the responses of scholars of religion for a keynote address for
the British Association for the Study of Religion in 2003: “The Response of Scholars of Religion to Global Religious
In 2003 I completed
a major overview of religion and human rights "Human
Rights: An Important and Challenging New Field for the Study of Religion"
for a significant new text, New Approaches to the Study of Religion
(eds. Geertz, Antes, and Warne, Mouton de Gruyter, 2003). My critical
overview of the field of Anthropology of Religion appeared in the Penguin Companion to the
Study of Religion (ed. Hinnells, 2005).
A couple of years
ago I took time out to reflect upon my "fieldwork" over the
years. It is the closing piece of a set of essays for Method and
Theory in the Study of Religion (2001) by mainly historians of religion,
recounting and analyzing their experiences in the field. I also consider
my "Prophets, 'False Prophets' and the
African State: Emergent Issues of Religious Freedom and Conflict" (for
a Nova Religio (April 2001) symposium on current relationships between
new religions and the state around the world) to be one of my more important
pieces. This has been updated and now forms part of a book edited by
Phillip Lucas and Tom Robbins, The Future
of New Religions in the 21st Century (Routledge, 2003).
CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS
I have long had an
interest in the media, particularly the broadcast media--stemming from my days
as a student intern at the BBC in Birmingham (I was actually offered a career
opening in production, but turned it down, preferring to stay in academe).
Given that the transnational, revivalist religious groups that I research have
skillfully appropriated modern media technologies, and that I have written on
visual religious culture, it seemed logical me to start taking the growing
intersections of religion and media in Africa
more seriously. I published a preliminary piece on this topic, "Pentecostal/Charismatic
Appropriations of Modern Media Technologies in Nigeria and Ghana"
which appeared in the Journal of Religion in Africa in 1998. See also "Managing
or Manipulating Religious Conflict in the Nigerian Media".
My current research
focuses more on how the rise of religious media in many parts of Africa, particularly in the current phase of
deregulation, is generating new forms of competition and conflict between
religious groups. Radio and television are fast becoming the sites where
religious discourses and identities are shaped and contested. I plan to write a full-length comparative
study of religious media in Africa, and am in
the early stages of planning a co-edited book, Media and Religion in Africa: Innovation, Imagination, Transformation, with Ben Soares.
Each fall I teach
the African Religions course. As usual, it is a challenge
to do justice to the rich cultural and religious diversity of the world's
second largest continent--ranging from the plethora of local and indigenous
forms of religious practice through the various manifestations of Christianity
and Islam to African-derived religions in the New World,
namely the much-misunderstood vodou and santeria. See, in this connection, a short piece on "Teaching African Religions
through Art and Literature" which appeared in Bastian and Parpart, eds. Great
Ideas for Teaching About Africa (1999) (a
very useful book for any Africanist or anyone who would like to include African
material in their courses).
Each spring I teach
one of my favorite courses, Anthropology of Religion. Thanks to a mistake
I made a few years ago in forgetting to order an ethnographic novel for the
course, students now choose their own. This has led us into examining
more closely and critically the plethora of popular anthropological texts on
the market which deal with spirituality, especially shamanism! I also enjoy teaching the Theory and Method
course in our Master’s program, when I can—although admit to my
graduate students that I came to an appreciation of theory late in the game.
Spring Semester 2003
was the teaching experience of a lifetime as it was Africa Semester at the University of Tennessee! Thanks to incredible support from the
university administration and various departments we put on a variety of
exhibitions, lecture series, and concerts.
The whole semester was an interdisciplinary eye-opener for all faculty
I have gleaned much
from my students over the years. Please
see my JOY OF LEARNING page for learning and studying tips.
I was elected to the
post of President of the International
Association for the History of Religions (IAHR) at the 19th
World Congress in Tokyo, Japan in March 2005. The position runs until 2010. I am a founding member and Treasurer of the
African Association for the Study of Religions, and a past President of the
North American Association for the Study of Religion. In 1997, I was elected to
the American Association for the Study of Religion, and have served on the
I helped plan
the 1998 annual meeting at Carleton College, Northfield,
MN on "The Scholar of
Religion Responding to Situations of Controversy, Conflict, and Change."
As Program Chair of the
IAHR World Congress in Durban, South Africa, August 5-12, 2000, I was
responsible for coordinating an international program committee and developing
a comprehensive program which reflects the varied interests of a global
organization (to view the program, CLICK HERE).
I also belong to the
American Academy of Religion, the African Studies
Association, the American Anthropological Association, the Arts Council of the
African Studies Association, and the Society for the Scientific Study of
Religion. Even though an expatriate, I still keep up my membership with the
British Association for the Study of Religion. Currently I serve on two lively
and intellectually stimulating steering committees at the AAR,
the Religion, Media, and Culture Group, and the Law, Religion and Culture
Group. Selecting papers and panels each
year is a way of staying on top of current scholarship in one’s field.
PREVIOUS PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES
CAMPUS AND OUTREACH ACTIVITIES
I wear as a public scholar of religion not unnaturally reflect my personal
concerns and academic trajectory. Perhaps the biggest contribution that I make to campus life and
the wider community is to share my experiences of other cultures, and to
encourage others to travel. I was a longstanding member of the Council on
International Education at UTK up
until 2000. Now there is a major campus initiative on International
and Intercultural Awareness. As a scholar who focuses on Africa, I am keen
to combat the negative images of Africa in the media, as well as the general
dearth of knowledge about this great and vast continent. (See a great image which
proves how large Africa is.) I have also
worked annually with the African
Students Association to organize Africa Week at the University
of Tennessee, Knoxville. This is a multi-media event which
has grown from strength, seeking to promote awareness of, and interest in,
African issues and cultures. I try never to miss the International
Cultural Festival on our campus in April as the food is unfailingly good!
I am long-time
member of Amnesty International, having
helped establish the organization in Nigeria in the early 1980s. At UT, I have served actively as a faculty
advisor with the ever-thriving UT
campus chapter. The "stress-reducing, world-changing Friday afternoon
teas" that I used to arrange at a local coffee shop for student activists
proved mutually beneficial, and paradoxically calming and energizing!
In 2003, I served as
a member of the Steering Committee for the historic and highly successful
Africa Semester at the University
of Tennessee. It was
doubtlessly one of the most ambitious Africa Semesters ever organized on a
college campus! We brought to town some of Africa's
best musicians, artists and scholars. For details see the Africa Semester website. One of the big hits was the residency of one
of South Africa’s
leading jazz musicians, Zim
Ngqawana. He delighted the campus
and local clubs with his avant-garde jazz, which draws on his traditional Xhosa
roots as well as the strains of Scandinavia,
Coltrane, Max Roach, and a host of others!
Read a rave
review of his music that we were able to enjoy.
Nowadays, I enjoy talking to community
or campus groups about my work and professional concerns. The requests tend to
center around religious terrorism and fundamentalism, the art and religion of
Africa, and the plight of the lost and invisible children caught up in the war in Northern Uganda. The piece that I
wrote following my trip to Northern Uganda in
April 2004, “Who
Goes to Gulu?
The Lord’s Resistance Army and the
Forgotten War in Northern Uganda.” Peace Colloquy (Kroc Institute, Notre
Dame) has drawn me into broader efforts in this country to bring attention to
the plight of the lost and stolen children in particular. It was quite frankly one week that changed my
outlook on life for ever, being shocked by what I saw, moved by the efforts of
people to survive, and inspired by the peacebuilders, notably Archbishop John
Baptist Odama and Rtd. Bishop McCleod Baker Ochola II. I plan to take a team of faculty members from
UT to teach for a month in the summer at Gulu University,
once hostilities cease. You can view
some of the photos that I took in the refugee
camps, the night-commuter children’s camp, and the army barracks.
In March 2006 I
wrote another short piece,
"Northern Uganda's War-Sick Children Move into the Media Spotlight,"
for Sightings, a publication of the the Martin Marty
Center, the Institute for
the Advanced Study of Religion.
My interests in and
concerns for the suffering of the people in Northern Uganda resulted in my
organizing with a team of wonderful students a benefit concert on September 1,
2006 called "Knoxville Jazz for Justice." It was held at the
World Grotto, in Knoxville, and was a huge success. We are continuing the
work to use music, especially jazz, as a source of activism and "engaged
entertainment." In early 2007, we launched a benefit compilation CD. For
details on the CD and our goals and activities, see the KNOXVILLE
JAZZ FOR JUSTICE PROJECT website.
PREVIOUS CAMPUS AND OUTREACH ACTIVITIES
NEWS, CURRENT AND FUTURE
Please visit my Joy of Gardening page. There you can read about my growing passion
for gardening, and the creation of the Good Karma Gardening Circle here in East Tennessee.
Jos, Nigeria January 2004
Rosalind I. J.
Last updated December 2008