I am an anthropologist and scholar of religion with a primary research focus on religion in modern Africa and the African Diaspora. I am currently working on projects related to interreligious encounter in Nigeria, Islam and public policy in sub-Saharan Africa, and African immigrant religious networks among African Initiated Churches in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I also serve as the General Secretary of the African Association for the Study of Religions (AASR) and as Co-Chair of the World Christianity Unit for the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Prior to joining Leiden University in 2015, I was a Visiting Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University, USA (2014) and Assistant Lecturer and Tutor in Religious Studies at Edinburgh University, UK (2012-2014).
My research is currently centred on several interconnected research projects. The first relates broadly to religion in West Africa. In my PhD research, I conducted 12 months of fieldwork in Nigeria documenting how and why the Yorùbá simultaneously belong to and/or identify with multiple religions. With two case studies, one of a masquerade festival and another of the ‘Chrislam’ movement, the project: (1) documented the continued role and influence of indigenous African religions; (2) contested how the existent literature narrowly focused on public interactions, politics, and violence, thus largely neglecting private interactions and surreptitious religiosity; and (3) problematized ‘essentialized religions’ and proposed that the Yorùbá concept of ‘accommodation’ is a standard feature of cultural interaction and is integral to not only understanding Yorùbá culture and society, but also West African religiosity in general. I am currently revising a monograph based on my PhD dissertation that is tentatively titled, Interreligious Encounter in a West Africa City: A Study of Multiple Religious Belonging and Identity Among the Yoruba.
The second project relates specifically to West African immigrants and religion in the U.S. To date I have conducted two short-term field visits to Los Angeles and formed an expert advisory committee: Afe Adogame (Princeton), Jacob Olupona (Harvard), and Gerrie ter Haar (Erasmus). Using a ‘Seed and Breed’ grant from the Centre for the Study of Islam and Society, I brought the committee together in December 2016 for a workshop to discuss my research. In January 2016, I submitted a grant proposal to the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) titled, ‘African Immigrant Religious Networks: The Social and Political Engagement of African Initiated Churches in California’.
For the third project, I serve as the Regional Coordinator and Moderator for Sub-Saharan Africa on the Islam in the Modern World grant project. This four-year project brings together policy makers, diplomats, and regional experts for training and discussion on policy issues related to religion (especially Islam). The joint venture is directed by Maurits Berger (Leiden Islam Academie) and is in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (The Hague, Netherlands), International Crisis Group (Brussels, Belgium), and the Centre for Professional Learning (Leiden University, Netherlands).
- PhD in Religious Studies, The University of Edinburgh, UK, 2016
- David M. Stowe Research Fellowship, Yale University, USA, 2013
- MA (summa cum laude) in Religion, History, and Anthropology, Pepperdine University, USA, 2010
- BA (cum laude) in Biblical Literature and Greek, Ozark Christian College, USA, 2008
- BTh (cum laude) in Intercultural Studies, Ozark Christian College, USA, 2007
- Assistant Professor, Leiden University, The Netherlands, since 2015
- Visiting Professor of Religion, Pepperdine University, USA, 2014
- Assistant Lecturer and Tutor, The University of Edinburgh, UK, 2012-2014
- Research and Teaching Assistant, Pepperdine University, USA, 2008-2010
Professional Organization Committees/Editorial Boards
- General Secretary, African Association for the Study of Religions, since 2015
- Co-Chair, World Christianity Group, American Academy of Religion, since 2015
- Assistant Deputy Editor, Journal for the Study of the Religions of Africa and its Diaspora, since 2015
Grants, Fellowships, and Awards
- Leiden Islam Academie and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Islam and the Modern World’ grant project. Role: Regional Coordinator and Moderator for Sub-Saharan Africa (2016-2020)
- Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society, Seed and Breed Grant (2016)
- Knowledge Exchange and Impact Grant (with Afe Adogame), Edinburgh University, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (2014)
- Gladstone’s Library, Revd Dr Murray McGregor Memorial Scholarship (awarded in 2013 and 2014)
- Yale University, The David M. Stowe Fellowship (2013)
- American Society of Church History, Graduate Student Paper Award (2013)
- Edinburgh University Students Association, Nominated for Best Postgraduate Tutor Award (nominated in 2012 and 2013)
- Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Graduate Student Paper Award (2012)
- Institut Catholique de Paris, Research Language Bursary (2011)
- Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh, Conference and Research Grant (2011)
- University of Edinburgh, College of Humanities and Social Science Postgraduate Scholarship (2010-2013)
- University of Edinburgh, New College Postgraduate Research Grant (2010-2014)
- Pepperdine University, Major Research Grant (awarded in 2009 and 2010)
- Lily Foundation, Research and Travel Grant (2009)
- Pepperdine University, Research Assistantship (2008-2010)
- Pepperdine University, Graduate Student Travel Grant (awarded in 2007 and 2008)
- Pepperdine University, Department of Religion Graduate Scholarship (2007-2010)
Fighting for God or Fighting in God’s Name: Religion, Conflict, Violence, and Tolerance in Glocal Perspectives, co-edited with Olufunke Adeboye and Afe Adogame (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, Conflict and Security in the Developing World Series, under contract).
Sports, Leisure, Religion, and Spirituality in Africa and the African Diaspora, co-edited with Afe Adogame and Damaris Parsitau (London: Routledge, proposal stage).
“The Nigerianness of Christianity: An Ethnohistorical Approach to Transmission and Indigenization”, Journal for the Study of the Religions of Africa and its Diaspora, under review.
“Deconstructing Religious Violence: Anthropological Reflections on Herbert Blumer’s Method of Symbolic Interactionism,” in Fighting for God, Fighting in God’s Name: Religion, Conflict, Violence, and Tolerance in Glocal Perspectives, eds. Afe Adogame et. al. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2017).
“Religion and Sport in Multireligious Nigeria: the Case of Kaduna City Interfaith Football Club,” in Global Perspectives on Sport and Christianity, eds. Afe Adogame, Nick Watson and Andrew Parker (New York: Routledge, 2017).
“Chrislam: Defying Nigeria’s Religious Boundaries”, Leiden Islam Blog, 17 July 2015, http://leiden-islamblog.nl/articles/chrislam-defying-nigerias-religious-boundaries.
“Researching Belonging and Identity in Multireligious Nigeria”, Knowing Each Other: Everyday Religious Encounters, Social Identities and Tolerance in Southwest Nigeria, A European Research Council Project, http://www.knowingeachother.com/2014/09/24/researching-belonging-and-identity-in-multireligious-nigeria/.
African Traditions in the Study of Religion in Africa (London: Ashgate, 2013), eds. Afe Adogame, Ezra Chitando, and Bolaji Bateye. Review in Journal of Religion in Africa 44.3 (2014): 430-433.
“Religion, Conflict, Violence, and Tolerance in Global Perspectives”, Politics and Religion Journal, 6.1 (2012): 163-168.
I welcome enquiries from potential PhD students. I am particularly interested in proposals that aim to employ a qualitative social scientific approach (anthropology, sociology, etc.) and are focused on some aspect of Religion in Modern Africa, Global Christianity, Religion and Public Policy in sub-Saharan Africa, and/or Religion and the African Diaspora.
Within the classroom, I bring a wide teaching scope on the study of religion, anthropological fieldwork methods, qualitative social science, African Studies, and public policy. I teach and supervise in both BA and MA programmes across Religious Studies, International Studies, African Studies, and Asian Studies.
My recent courses:
- Africa in Global Perspective
- Religion in Africa: Past and Present
- Global Christianity
- Methods and Techniques 2: Qualitative Research
- Religions in the Modern World
- Religion Rules! Regulating Religion in a Globalizing World
- Witchcraft and Sorcery in Early Modern Europe and Contemporary Africa (MA)
- Qualitative Interviewing (MA
- Global Transformations (MA)
International Conference Organization
- Ghana: University of Ghana, Accra, Legon, African Association for the Study of Religions International Conference, 26 July – 29 July 2016. Role: Co-organizer with Rose Mary Amenga-Etego, University of Ghana.
- South Africa: University of Cape Town, African Association for the Study of Religions International Conference, 30 July – 3 August 2014. Role: Planning Committee.
- Kenya: Egerton University, African Association for the Study of Religions International Conference, 18-23 July 2012. Role: Head of Secretariat and Co-organizer with Afe Adogame, Edinburgh University, and Damaris Parsitau, Egerton University.
- UK: University of Edinburgh, Yale-Edinburgh Conference, 28–30 June 2012. Role: Secretariat.
- Nigeria: Abuja, International Sociological Association – Sociology of Religion Conference, 27-30 January 2012. Role: Head of Secretariat and Co-organizer with Afe Adogame, Edinburgh University.
Workshop and Exhibition Organization
- Workshop: ‘Islam in the Modern World: Sub-Saharan Africa Region’, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague, 27 June 2017 (Primary Coordinator and Moderator)
- Workshop: ‘Islam in the Modern World: Sub-Saharan Africa Region’, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague, 17 January 2017 (Primary Coordinator and Moderator)
- Lecture and Workshop Event: ‘Religion in Africa’, Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society, 15-16 December 2016 (Primary Organizer)
- Photo Exhibition: ‘The Spiritual Highway’, featuring the photography of Akintunde Akinleye and lecture by Marloes Janson, Leiden University, 1 February – 31 March 2016, featured in the Leidsch Dagblad: News Article (Primary Organizer)
- Workshop: ‘Jan Platvoet and the Study of Religion’, Leiden University, 8 June 2015 (Co-organizer with Ab de Jong and Markus Davidsen)
- Workshop: Indigeneity Goes Global, University of Edinburgh, 29 May 2014 (Co-organizer with Afe Adogame and Head of Secretariat)
- Workshop: Religion and Sport: Past, Present, and Future, University of Edinburgh, 27 March 2013 (Co-organizer with Afe Adogame; Head of Secretariat)
Conference and Workshop Presentations
- Leiden University, Leiden Society of Christianity and Culture (S.S.S.), 15 February 2017. Title: African Depictions of Jesus: Western Symbolism, Realism, and African Symbolism.
- Leiden Global, Lecture Series: Discipline and Place in the Social Sciences and Humanities, 3 November 2016. Title: Locating the Study of Religion.
- University of Cambridge, ASAUK, 8 September 2016. Title: Global Flows of West African Religious Healing Practices (Invited Paper).
- Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, Germany, 18 July 2016. Title: Interreligious Encounter in Nigeria’s Public Domain: Chrislam and Multiple Religious Belongings and Identities (Invited Paper).
- Leiden University, Alumni Day on Global Religion, 23 May 2016. Title: Is God Dead? Global Christianity in the Twenty-First Century.
- Doha, Qatar, Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue, 16-17 February 2016. Invited as Rapporteur.
- Leiden University, Guiding Travellers Workshop Series, 10 December 2015. Title: Visual Religion: Anthropological and Religious Studies Perspectives (Invited Paper).
- Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society, What’s New Public Lecture Series, 24 September 2015. Title: Varieties of Religious Belonging and Identity Among the Yorùbá of Ogbómòsó, Nigeria.
- IAHR World Congress, Erfurt, Germany, 24 August 2015. Title: Looking Back into Religious Futures: Dynamics of Resilience and Mutation in African Religionscapes.
- Utrecht University, The Netherlands, 6 March 2015. Title: Varieties of Religious Belonging and Identity Among the Yorùbá of Ogbómòsó, Nigeria (Invited Paper).
- University of Sussex, ASAUK, 10 September 2014. Title: On the Mutability of Religious Traditions: Chrislam and Beyond (Invited Paper).
- Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh, UK, 4 March 2014. Title: Exploring Multiple Religious Belongings in Contemporary Nigeria: Chrislam and Beyond.
- American Academy of Religion, Baltimore, USA, 24 November 2013. Title: Religious Bricolage and Typology: The Case of Chrislam in Nigeria.
- American Historical Association, New Orleans, USA, 4 January 2013. Title: Christianity and Cultural Bricolage in Nigeria: An Ethnohistorical Approach to Transmission and Appropriation.
- Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Phoenix, USA, 11 November 2012. Title: Toward Ethno-Religious Solidarity: The Case of the Ogbomoso Society of Chrislam.
- University of Edinburgh, UK, 19 September 2012. Title: Religio-Cultural Bricolage as Conflict and Renewal in Nigeria: An Ethnography of the Ogbomoso Society of Chrislam.
- Yale-Edinburgh Conference, University of Edinburgh, UK, 30 June 2012. Title: Religio-Cultural Bricolage and Conflict: The Chrislam Movement in Nigeria.
- International Sociological Association, Abuja, Nigeria, 26 January 2012. Title: Deconstructing Religious Violence: Sociological Reflections on Herbert Blumer’s Method of Symbolic Interactionism.
- Yale-Edinburgh Conference, Yale University, New Haven, USA, 1 July 2011. Title: Education and Muslim-Christian Encounter in Contemporary Nigeria: The View from Ogbomoso and Kaduna.
- American Academy of Religion, Western Region Meeting, Arizona State University, Tempe, USA, 15 March 2010. Title: A Flattened History of World Christianity: Epochal Destruction as a Pattern for Emergence.
- African Association for the Study of Religions, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 20 January 2010. Title: World Christianity? The Case for a Multi-directional Approach.
- Nederlands Genootschap voor Godsdienstwetenschap (since 2015)
- African Studies Association of the United Kingdom (since 2013)
- Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (since 2011)
- The Yale-Edinburgh Group (since 2010)
- African Association for the Study of Religions (since 2009)
- American Academy of Religion (since 2007)
- Williams C.L. (2019), Chrislam, accommodation and the politics of religious Bricolage in Nigeria, Studies in World Christianity 25(1): 5-28.
- Williams C.L. & Adogame A. (2019), Editorial: Christianity and Multiple Identities, Studies in World Christianity 25(1): 1-4.
- Williams C.L. (2018), Review of: Joel Cabrita, David Maxwell, and Emma Wild-Wood (2017) Relocating World Christianity: Interdisciplinary Studies in Universal and Local Expressions of the Christian Faith, Theology and Mission in World Christianity, International Review of Mission 107(2): 561-563.
- Williams C.L. (2016), Religion and Sport in Multireligious Nigeria: the Case of Kaduna City Interfaith Football Club. In: Adogame A., Watson N.J., Parker A. (Eds.) Global Perspectives on Sport and Christianity. New York: Routledge.
- Davidsen M.A., Berger M.S., Jong A.F. de, Williams C.L., Boer E.M. de, Wall E.G.E. van der, Frishman J., Dessing N.M., Hofstee W. & Buisman J.W. (17 December 2015), Verplicht religiekunde voor alle scholieren. Reformatorisch Dagblad, Forum: 6-7.
- Davidsen M.A., Berger M.S., Jong A.F. de, Williams C.L., Boer E.M de, Wall E.G.E. van der, Frishman J., Dessing N.M., Hofstee W. & Buisman J.W. (14 December 2015), Leidse Visie voor het Religieonderwijs. Leiden Religie Blog. Leiden: Universiteit Leiden [blog entry].
- Williams C.L. (2014), African Traditions in the Study of Religion in Africa Review of: Afe Adogame | Ezra Chitando | Bolaji Bateye (2013) African Traditions in the Study of Religion in Africa: Emerging Trends, Indigenous Spirituality and the Interface with other World Religions, Journal of Religion in Africa, Journal of Religion in Africa 44(3): 430-433.
- Williams C.L. (2012), Religion, Conflict, Violence, and Tolerance in Global Perspectives, Politics and Religion Journal 6(1): 163-168.
- Williams C.L. (2011), Review of: Douglas Pratt (2010) The Church and other Faiths: The World Council of Churches, the Vatican, and Interreligious Dialogue, European University Studies, Theological Book Review 23(1): 113-114.
No relevant ancillary activities