TAFARPM75U Thematic course: Religion, Popular Culture and the Media

Volume 2020/2021

MA programme in African Studies


How are religious ideas, moralities and world making expressed in popular culture and the media in Africa? What does popular culture as genre offer as a lens to study religion in Africa? Popular culture as a product of the ordinary and as an expression of the creativity of everyday life engages with religious imaginaries and moralities. In this course, we discuss how religion is mediated through a variety of popular cultural forms of expression such as music, songs, films and videos, social media and magazines. In addition, we look at how popular culture and media function as platforms for authority making and the making of political influence. This course will also provide an insight into the ways in which religions are appropriated for socioeconomic mobility.


This course has been awarded funding from the university to experiment with enhancing students’ skills with research integration. It provides a unique opportunity for students to engage in alternative ways of learning and creating knowledge. During the course, students are encouraged to actively define and discuss their own cases within the theme of the course: how religious ideas, religious morality and religious worldviews are expressed in popular culture and through various media in Africa and African diaspora. The course aims at creating communication, collaboration and involvement between students, researchers and people involved in the specific cases. Furthermore, the course explores different channels of conveying and communicating results, for example through social media and other channels. A number of international scholars in the field will take part in the course.


Learning Outcome

Learning outcome:

  • Students will gain knowledge about the main approaches and debates to popular culture and religion in Africa.
  • Students will acquire knowledge about a variety of popular cultural forms of expression and how these might be shaped by and shape religious ideas, moralities and world making.
  • Student will acquire the ability to identify and engage theoretically and critically with different examples of popular culture and relate these to particular empirical and historical contexts.
  • Students will acquire the competence to independently and critically conduct an analysis of a self-selected research question within the overall theme of the course.

Suggested literature:


Asamoah-Gyadu JK. 2007. ‘Get on the internet!’ says the LORD: Religion, cyberspace and Christianity in contemporary Africa. Studies in World Christianity 13(3): 225–242.


Barber, Karin. 2018. A History of African Popular Culture. Cambridge University Press.


Brennan, Vicki L. 2018. Singing Yoruba Christianity: Music, Media, and Morality. Indiana University Press.


Fabian, Johannes. 1978. ‘Popular culture in Africa: findings and conjectures’, Africa 48 (4): 315-334.

Lauterbach, Karen. 2010. ‘Becoming a Pastor: Youth and Social Aspirations in Ghana’. Young: Nordic Journal of Youth Research 18.3, 259-278.

Maxwell, David. 1998. ‘Delivered from the Spirit of Poverty? Pentecostalism, Prosperity, and Modernity in Zimbabwe’. Journal of Religion in Africa 28.3, 350-373.


Mbecha F. 2014. Rebranding familiar images: Intertextuality in Christian Nollywood. In: Becker J, Klingan K, Lanz S, et al. (eds) Global Prayers: Contemporary Manifestations of the Religious in the City. Zürich: Lars Müller Publishers, pp.480–493.


Meyer, Birgit. 2015. Sensational Movies: Video, Vision and Christianity in Ghana. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Newell, Stephanie & Okome, Onookome. 2013. Popular Culture in Africa: the episteme of the everyday. Routledge.


Pype, Katrien. 2012. The Making of the Pentecostal Melodrama. Religion, Media, and Gender in Kinshasa. New York: Berghahn Books.


Pype Katrien. 2006. Dancing for God or the Devil: Pentecostal discourse on popular dance in Kinshasa. Journal of Religion in Africa 36(3): 296–318.


Schulz, Dorothea. 2012. Muslims and New Media in West Africa: Pathways to God. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Tazanu, Primus. M. 2018. Of Polluted Spirits and Compromised Identity: Pentecostal Depictions of Causality and the Repositioning of Human Agency in Cameroon. Journal of Asian and African Studies53(6), 970-983.


Ukah, A. 2003. Advertising God: Nigerian Christian video-films and the power of consumer culture. Journal of Religion in Africa, 33(2), 203-231.

Teaching and learning methods:

The course will take the form of a seminar series consisting of lectures combined with class discussion and other activities that enhance an engaged and participatory learning environment.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 122
  • Exam
  • 60
  • Total
  • 210
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
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

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