Professor Adriaan van Klinken
- Position: Professor of Religion and African Studies
- Areas of expertise: Religion and public life in Africa; Religion, gender and sexuality; Contemporary Christianity (esp. Pentecostalism)
- Email: A.vanKlinken@leeds.ac.uk
- Phone: +44(0)113 343 3646
- Location: G.05 Botany House
- Website: Adriaan van Klinken homepage | Twitter | Googlescholar | Researchgate | ORCID
The University of Leeds has a history of teaching and researching religions in Africa, and I am delighted to continue this tradition in the present day. Since 2020, I hold the Chair of Religion and African Studies in the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science at the University of Leeds. Since 2021, I am also extraordinary professor at the University of the Western Cape (South Africa), in the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice. I have been at Leeds since 2013, and before that I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at SOAS University of London (2011-2012). I received my PhD in Religious Studies (cum laude) from Utrecht University in 2011.
At Leeds, I serve as Director of the Centre for Religion and Public Life as well as of the Leeds University Centre for African Studies. Nationwide, I am a member of the Peer Review College of the Arts & Humanities Research Council. Internationally I am actively involved in the American Academy of Religion (AAR), where I currently serve as co-chair of the African Religions Group, and in the African Association for the Study of Religions (AASR). Furthermore, I am section editor (African religions) of the journal Religion Compass, a member of the editorial board of the journals Religion, Religion and Gender, the Journal of Africana Religions, the African Journal of Gender and Religion, and of Reading Religion, and co-editor of the series Routledge Critical Studies in Religion, Gender and Sexuality.
My academic interests are at the intersections of Religious Studies and African Studies, with a focus on religion, gender and sexuality in contemporary Africa. Please check out my recent books Reimagining Christianity and Sexual Diversity in Africa, which I co-authored with Ezra Chitando (Hurst & Co, London, 2021) and Sacred Queer Stories: Ugandan LGBTQ+ Lives and the BIble, which I co-authored with Johanna Stiebert, Sebyala Brian and Hudson Fredrick. Please also see my monograph, Kenyan, Christian, Queer: Religion, LGBT Activism, and Arts of Resistance in Africa (Penn State University Press, 2019) and the related documentary film Kenyan Christian Queer (2020). In October 2021, I delivered my inaugural lecture as Professor of Religion and African Studies, titled “Reimagining Christianity and Sexual Diversity in Africa”.
- Director, Centre of Religion and Public Life
- Director, Leeds University Centre for African Studies
Having a broad interest in the role of religion in African societies today, the particular focus of my research is on issues of religion, gender, sexuality and public life in contemporary Africa. The geographical focus of my work has mostly been on Zambia and, more recently, Kenya. Methodologically I embrace a ‘scavenger approach’ that creatively borrows methods, concepts and theories from disciplines across the humanities and social sciences. I weave these approaches together in an attempt to analyse and understand religion as a social, cultural and political category intricately connected to the multiple dimensions of human life in Africa and beyond.
My research has developed around the following themes:
- In my doctoral and immediate postdoctoral research, I studied Christian politics of masculinity in Zambia. This work was published in my first book, Transforming Masculinities in African Christianity: Gender Controversies in Times of AIDS (Ashgate 2013).
- I have done extensive research on religion and the politicisation of homosexuality in Africa. Together with Ezra Chitando I have co-edited two book volumes on this subject, Public Religion and the Politics of Homosexuality in Africa and Christianity and Controversies over Homosexuality in Contemporary Africa (Routledge 2016). Together with Ebenezer Obadare, I edited Christianity, Sexuality and Citizenship in Africa (Routledge 2018).
- More recently, I have examined Christianity and LGBT activism in African contexts. My monograph Kenyan, Christian, Queer: Religion, LGBT Activism, and Arts of Resistance in Africa (Penn State University Press, 2019) presents four case studies of creative forms of queer visibility through which Kenyan LGBT actors organize and present themselves in the public domain, while critically engaging and appropriating Christian beliefs, symbols, and practices. Related to the book is the documentary film Kenyan, Christian, Queer (2020), for which I collaborated with the film maker Aiwan Obinyan (director) and with David Ochar (co-executive producer). Most recently, I co-authored the books Reimagining Christianity and Sexual Diversity in Africa, with Ezra Chitando (Hurst & Co, London, 2021), and Sacred Queer Stories: Ugandan LGBTQ+ Lives and the BIble, with Johanna Stiebert, Sebyala Brian and Hudson Fredrick.
- My current research explores critical and creative representations of Christianity in contemporary African literary writing.
- I’m also developing a research interest into the question of “African knowledges”, and especially religious/spiritual knowledges, and their political and epistemological significance for African studies and religious studies.
I currently hold two research grants:
- A British Academy small research grant, together with my colleague Professor Johanna Stiebert, focusing on the sacred life stories of Ugandan LGBT refugees in Kenya (2019–2021).
- An AHRC-funded research network about “Sexuality and Religion in East Africa” (2020–2021), for which I collaborate with Dr Barbara Bompani (Edinburgh) and Dr Damaris Parsitau (Egerton University, Kenya).
I welcome applications from postgraduate research students in areas related to my interests and expertise. Currently I supervise the following PhD students:
- Chia Bonaventure, “Religious Extremism and Boko Haram in Nigeria (with Dr Jasjit Singh).
- Grace Nwamah, “Religious Pluralism and the Challenge of Democracy in Nigeria” (with Prof. Emma Tomalin).
- Mark Rowland, “Queer theologies of holiness” (with Prof. Rachel Muers).
- Laura Wallace, “Catholicism and sex-work activism in Ireland” (with Dr Caroline Starkey).
I have supervised the following PhD students:
- Kwame Aidan Ahaligah, "Pentecostalism, Prophecy and Politics in Kenya" (with Dr Kevin Ward; completed September 2020).
- Jamys Carter, "A Critical Analysis of the Pentecostal Hermeneutics Used by Elim Local Church Leadership Teams in Relation to the Topic of Women in Ministry (with Prof. Rachel Muers; completed December 2019).
- George Lawi Otieno, "Mission, Identity, and Ecology: Sustainability among the Luo of Tanzania" (supervisory mentorship for PhD at Leeds Trinity University; completed 2018).
- Benjamin Kirby, "Muslim Mobilisation, Urban Informality, and the Politics of Development in Tanzania: An Ethnography of the Kariakoo Market District" (with Prof. Emma Tomalin; completed September 2017).
- PhD in Religious Studies, Utrecht University (2011)
- MA in Religious Studies, Utrecht University (2006)
- BA in Religion and Social Work, Ede University of Applied Science (2003)
- American Academy of Religion
- African Association for the Study of Religions
- African Studies Association UK
- International Association for the Study of Religion and Gender
In the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, I am involved in teaching various undergraduate modules in the subject of Religion. Most of the modules that I lead have a focus on religion in Africa. Also in more general modules, I usually find ways of bringing in my specific interest and expertise in this field. The same applies to my teaching at postgraduate level. The great thing of teaching at Leeds is the University's commitment to research-led teaching, meaning that on the one hand we are encouraged to constantly revise our teaching on the basis of our latest research, while on the other hand students are encouraged to engage in research activities themselves and are indeed trained to become student-researchers.
The undergraduate modules I teach are typically part of the programmes Theology & Religious Studies; Religion, Politics and Society; and Ethics, Philosophy and Religion. Through the discovery modules scheme, students from all over the university are welcome to enrol in my modules.
Research groups and institutes
- Centre for Religion and Public Life
- Theology and Religious Studies