TAFACHM75U Thematic course: Religion, Cultural Heritage and Memory

Volume 2024/2025

MA programme in African Studies


Course title: Religion, Cultural Heritage and Memory

Modern societies are shaped by histories of the past. In many ways, past histories are often entangled with forms of religious enunciations that reveals the ways societies organised themselves politically, define and express their identity, protect human dignity, and overcome or, at least, deal with vulnerabilities and cope with other forms of insecurities. Studying past memories of groups and society, helps us to appreciate the ways contemporary societies are formed, organize themselves and deal with social changes. This course is designed to provide to students the opportunity to learn about how the performance of some religious rituals and buildings evokes memory that connects societies to their historical pasts. The course will introduce students to practical observations of selected ritual performances at heritage sites and discuss ways that such performances reignite passions and spur contemporary forms of religious identity and meaning making. In addition, the course also brings into perspective how the heritagization of culture and religion as part of memory making produce different and multiple religious identities and competitions in modern African societies. Questions that are explored includes how does religious rituals evoke memory and connect communities to their cultural and historical pasts? How does colonial relics such as objects, artefacts, and buildings provide images of the past and reinvent memories? In what ways does cultural heritage produces forms of religious strategies for the remaking of identities?

Learning Outcome

Learning outcomes

  • Students will learn about key issues in cultural heritage through a lively discussion on the ways in which religious rituals at heritage sites evokes memory and connect societies to their historical pasts.
  • Students will recognise, understand, and interpret concepts of religion and memory in everyday life.
  • Students will gain knowledge of the ways that aspects of postcolonial lives in modern African societies are entangled with and shaped by the experiences and events in precolonial times. 
  • Students will understand and appreciate multiple identities and the ambivalences in contemporary forms of religious practice.

Suggested literature


Assmann, Jan. 2006. Religion and Cultural Memory: Ten Studies. Trans by Rodney Livingstone. Stanford, California. Stanford University Press.


Isnart, C. and Cerezales, N. (eds.). 2000. The Religious Heritage Complex: Legacies, Conservation, and Christianity. London: Bloomsbury Academic.


Mazrui, A. A. 1986. The Africans: A triple heritage. Guild Publishing.


Mazrui, A. A. 1983. The Reincarnation of The African State: A Triple Heritage in Transition from Pre-Colonial Times. Présence Africaine, 127–128(3), 114–127.



Rodriguez, J., & Fortier, T. 2021. Cultural Memory: Resistance, Faith, and Identity. University of Texas Press.


Urbaniak, J. 2015. Religion as Memory: How has the Continuity of Tradition Produced Collective Meanings? - Part one. Hervormde Teologiese Studies, 71(3), 1–8.



Shaw, Rosalind. 2002. Memories of the Slave Trade: Ritual and the Historical Imagination in Sierra Leone. University of Chicago Press.


Mawere, M., & Mubaya, T. R. (Eds.). 2016. Colonial Heritage, Memory and Sustainability in Africa: Challenges, Opportunities and Prospects. Langaa Research & Publishing CIG.


Richards, S. L. 2005. What Is to Be Remembered? Tourism to Ghana’s Slave Castle-Dungeons. Theatre Journal (Washington, D.C.), 57(4), 617–637.



Kabir, A. J. (2020). Elmina as Postcolonial Space: Transoceanic Creolization and the Fabric of Memory. Interventions (London, England), 22(8), 994–1012.



St. Clair, William. 2007. The Door of No Return: The History of Cape Coast Castle and the

Atlantic Slave Trade. New York: Blue Bridge.


Taylor, Diana. 2003. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the

Americas. Durham: Duke University Press.


Yates, Frances. 1966. The Art of Memory. London: Routledge.


Samuel, Raphael. 2012. Theatres of Memory: Past and Present in Contemporary Culture. London: Verso Books.


Jordan, C A. 2007. Rhizomorphics of Race and Space: Ghana’s Slave Castles and the Roots of African Diaspora Identity. Journal of Architectural Education, 60, no. 4: 48-59.


Hyland, A.D.C. 1995. The Castles of Elmina and Cape Coast, and their influence on the

Architectural Development of the Two Towns. In The Cape Coast and Elmina

Handbook, edited by Kwame Arhin. Legon: University of Ghana.


Holsey, Bayo. 2008. Routes of Remembrance: Refashioning the Slave Trade in Ghana. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Assmann, Aleida. 2010. Re-framing Memory: Between Individual and Collective Forms of Constructing the Past. In Performing the Past: Memory, and Identity in Modern Europe, edited by Karin Tilmans, Frank Van Vree, and Jay Winter, 35-50. Amsterdam:

Amsterdam University Press.

Passed a minimum of 120 ECTS on BA-level
7 weeks, second half of the semester
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 122
  • Exam
  • 60
  • Total
  • 210
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
7.5 ECTS: 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
External censorship
Exam period

For more information click here