Who are My People? The Crisis of Belonging and the Excess of Love in Sub-Saharan Africa

Faculty Research Grant
Grant Year

To move beyond the endless cycles of violence in Africa requires paying attention to the stories of individuals who exemplify a most extraordinary virtue – “the excess of love” – which enable them to improvise forms of belonging that transcend ethnic, religious, modern, and traditional boundaries in a context of violence.

A three-year research project, Who Are My People will study eight such exemplars of “excess of love” in Africa. As part of the investigation, I plan to: (1) research the social, political and ecological context of the select exemplars; (2) conduct extensive interviews of the exemplars in their communities (3) bring the exemplars together in a three-day gathering or “Indaba” (4) convene two workshops with an interdisciplinary team of researchers on the broader themes of “identity” and “belonging” in Africa; and (5) convene a one-day international conference with scholars, public intellectuals, civic and religious leaders. The study will result in a scholarly monograph and two journal articles, a short book of stories, and six blogposts.

The study will contribute to an interdisciplinary conversation on the possibilities of non-violent forms community, identity and Christian agency in Africa. More specifically, the study will lead to a deeper understanding of the potential of transcendent love in African politics, and illumine new possibilities for social existence on the continent. In this way, the study will contribute directly to and advance Kellogg Institute’s research agenda, connecting specifically to the themes of democracy and integral human development.