Professor Adriaan van Klinken

Professor Adriaan van Klinken

Profile

My academic interests are in religion and public life in African societies, with a specific focus on contemporary Christianity and issues of gender and sexuality in Africa. 

I joined the University of Leeds in 2013, initially as Lecturer in African Christianity, since 2015 as Associate Professor of Religion and African Studies, and since 2020 as full Professor. Previously I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at SOAS University of London, and a research and teaching fellow at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. I received my PhD in Religious Studies from Utrecht University in 2011. 

At Leeds I currently serve as Director of the Centre for Religion and Public Life as well as of the Leeds University Centre for African Studies. Nationwide, I serve as 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 am currently co-chair of the African Religions Group, and in the African Association for the Study of Religions (AASR). Furthermore, I serve as editor of the African religions section of the journal Religion Compass, and as member of the editorial board of the journals Religion, Religion and Genderthe Journal of Africana Religions, the African Journal of Gender and Religionand of Reading Religion. I’m also editor of the series Routledge Critical Studies in Religion, Gender and Sexuality.

Please do check out my latest book, 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). Read the Q&As I did about the book with Black Gay Blog, Kenyan news platform TukoReligion in Public, and with Penn State University Press.

Responsibilities

  • Director, Centre of Religion and Public Life
  • Director, Leeds University Centre for African Studies

Research interests

Having a broad interest in the social, public and political roles 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. 

In my doctoral and immediate postdoctoral research, I studied transformations of masculinity in Catholic and Pentecostal settings in Zambia, relating these to the discourse of transformative masculinity presented by some leading African theologians. This work was published in my first book, Transforming Masculinities in African Christianity: Gender Controversies in Times of AIDS (Ashgate 2013). 

In more recent years, the focus of my research has been on the politicisation of homosexuality in African Christian contexts. 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). 

Most recently, I have examined the role of religion in different forms of LGBT activism in Africa. My second monograph, entitled Kenyan, Christian, Queer: Religion, LGBT Activism, and Arts of Resistance in Africa, was published by Penn State University Press in 2019 in the Africana Religions book series. The book examines the role of religion in LGBT activism in Africa, specifically Kenya. It 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. The book thus counter-balances the dominant narrative of religiously-inspired homophobia in Africa and shows how Christian traditions can also inspire queer politics and social change. 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). 

Currently, I am co-authoring a book for a wider audience, together with Ezra Chitando, titled Reimagining Christianity and Sexuality in Africa, which will be published in the African Arguments series of the International African Institute and ZED Books. I also work on a British Academy funded project, together with my colleague Professor Johanna Stiebert, focusing on the sacred life stories of Ugandan LGBT refugees in Kenya (2019-2020); and on an ESRC funded documentary film project about faith and LGBT activism in Kenya (2019-2020). I am the principal investigator of 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:

  • 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).

I have supervised the following PhD students:

  • Kwame Aidan Ahaligah, "Pentecostalism, Prophecy and Politics in Kenya" (with Dr Kevin Ward).
  • 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).
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Qualifications

  • 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)

Professional memberships

  • American Academy of Religion
  • African Association for the Study of Religions
  • African Studies Association UK
  • International Association for the Study of Religion and Gender

Student education

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

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>