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Examining "spiritual" way of thinking in Africa

Friday, June 7, 2019 5:40 - 7:10 pm


African Studies Center - TUFS will hold the 35th ASC Seminar on June 7, 2019. It is jointly organized with Kanto branch of Japan Association for African Studies. We will invite Prof. Paul Gifford, an emeritus professor at SOAS, University of London.

It is common in African societies to understand reality through spirits or spiritual forces. Prof. Gifford will examine this "spiritual" way of thinking in comparizon with a cognitive shift through the rise of science in Western societies. The seminar will be based on Prof. Gifford's book "The Plight of Western Religion: The Eclipse of the Other-Worldly" (C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd) published on May 9, 2019.

◆Speaker: Prof. Paul Gifford (Emeritus Professor, SOAS, University of London)

◆Title: African Religion in Comparison with Western

◆Abstract: In many cultures, the ordinary, natural and immediate way of understanding and experiencing reality has been in terms of otherworldly or spiritual forces. This is generally the case in Africa. According to this understanding, reality is a unified whole, boundaries are fluid and permeable between the natural and the supernatural, between the human and spirit world, between humans and animals, between human and nature. Spiritual forces pervade the universe. These spirits dwell in rocks, rivers, trees, animals and objects. Indeed, nothing is purely matter, since spirits infuse everything. Causality is to be discerned primarily in this spiritual realm, though natural causality is not entirely disregarded. Spirits may be manipulated by others, particularly to inflict evil. 'Healer-diviners' exist to identify and control these pervasive spiritual forces. Religion consists largely in protecting oneself from malign spiritual powers. The absence of destructive spirits forms the idea of the good life. However, in the West a cognitive shift has taken place through the rise of science and its subsequent technological application. This new consciousness has not disproved the existence of spiritual forces, but it has led to the peripheralisation of this 'spiritual' way of thinking, and thus to the 'secularization' of Western societies.

◆Date & Time: Friday, June 7, 2019 5:40 - 7:10 pm

◆Venue: Room 322, Research and Lecture Building, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

◆Language: English

◆Admission: Free

◆No pre-registration is needed.

◆Jointly organized by African Studies Center - TUFS and Kanto branch of Japan Association for African Studies