Call for papers – The Secret World of Oaths in Africa and the African Diaspora

We are pleased to announce the Call for Papers for an edited book on The Secret World of Oaths in Africa and the African Diaspora for publication in June/July 2022, sponsored by the Center for African Research Excellence and The West African Transitional Justice Centre (WATJCentre). The book project seeks to interrogate the intersections of the historical perceptions of oathing practices with adaptive practices within the African continent and the Diaspora.

Oathing, an often secret and spiritual practice, has been present since the very beginning of time across geographies as both a discursive and practical category that shapes the understanding of everyday lived experiences and enigmatic moments. It is both known and elusive in Africa and the African Diaspora. Yet, it was then and now viewed as a powerful tradition to establish and re-establish order, as well as promote honor among men and women. Throughout time, it has been used, abused, reconstituted, and invoked as a secretive and feared power source used to seal movements, allegiance and restore justice.

Oathing practices have been invoked as private and public phenomena for spiritual reinforcement and state engineering. Extant categories include promissory oaths which affirm commitment to future actions as exemplified in religious/spiritual oaths that create spiritual bonds and commitments among members; the oath of office for public officials; national pledges, ethical oaths for professionals such as the Hippocratic Oath for safeguarding the medical profession; evidence oaths that affirms commitment to truthful evidence in court; armed forces oath for military officers to pledge the allegiance to the sovereign state and Commander-in Chief; oath of secrecy transposing both the private and public spheres.

This edited volume will address the historical and contemporary use and abuse of oathing practices and rituals in Africa and the African Diaspora across temporalities. The editors are particularly interested in the colorful stories and varied applications of oathing belief systems and views across time and space. While some of these oath stories and ordeals are known, many more have been confined in closed circles; there is thus the need to tease out the political, social, religious, and economic intricacies of oath practices that have served as the glue for many groups to mobilize, unite and take action. The volume is also interested in theoretical models that show different interpretations and approaches to conceptualizing, constructing, and deconstructing oaths.

We are interested in papers that examine why and how oath in all of its varied forms has been imagined and re-imagined (in)to the social, political and economic processes, practices and relationships in Africa and the African Diaspora with special focus on how they have been implemented and used for resistance, seeking justice, community building and state engineering.

Book Editors

  • Associate Professor Mickie Mwanzia Koster, University of Texas, USA and author of Power of the Oath: Mau Mau Nationalism in Kenya, 1952-1960.
  • Philip Ademola Olayoku, Coordinator, The West African Transitional Justice Centre, Nigeria

How to submit

We welcome paper and panel proposals from academics, researchers and postgraduate students on all dimensions of conceptualizing, deconstructing and re-conceptualizing oath and oath taking practices in relation to, and/or, in the context of the following themes:

    • Oath as a reinforcement of memory and knowledge systems;
    • Reinvention of Oathing in traditional and modern practices;
    • Oath and imagined identities;
    • Oath and nationalism: ethnicity, kinship, and cosmopolitanism,;
    • Oath in public office: honor and abuse in state institutions and offices;
    • Oathing intersections of race, gender, sexual identities, and class;
    • Imagined oathing and restrictive pratices: (im)migration, space, territoriality and temporality;
    • The politics of oathing: law, political power, order and politics;
    • Legal implications of oath taking: law, allegiance, legal system, crime, criminal justice and policing;
    • Re-contextualizing oath taking practices: black thinkers and knowledge production;
    • Archiving oath practices;
    • Instrumentalizing oath: “post-racial” formations and discourses;
    • Abuse and Misuse of oathing: violence, terror and fundamentalism;
    • The ontology of oath: religion, spiritualism, curses, and religiosity;
    • The aesthetics of oathing rituals: music and performance; literature, language, symbolism, and culture;
    • Communicating oath: media, communication and the social media.
    • The remaking of oath: modernity and instruments of oath taking
    • Gendered dimensions of oath taking
    • Oathing practices in the digital age

  • Paper proposals (title + 500 word max abstract) should be sent to by May 31, 2021.
  • Notifications on accepted chapter proposals will be sent by June 15, 2021. Full papers will be due by October 31, 2021.

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