Professor Adriaan van Klinken
- Position: Professor of Religion and African Studies
- Areas of expertise: Religion, society and culture 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 stand in this tradition since my appointment in 2013. 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. Prior to coming to Leeds, 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.
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”.
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.
- 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 arts, 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. I’ve increasingly become interested in creative and arts-based methodologies and in working with local communities and actors as agents of social change.
My research has developed around the following themes:
- In my doctoral and immediate postdoctoral research, I studied Christianity and the politics of masculinity, specifically 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 the representation of, and engagement with religion in contemporary African literary writing (see my overview article “Religion in African Literature”, published in Religion Compass). I’m working on a book-length project about Christianity and social thought in twenty-first century African novels, including work by writers such as Chimamanda Adichie, Jennifer Makumbi, Chinelo Okparanta, NoViolet Bulawayo, and Okey Ndibe.
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” (2020–2022), 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 diverse interests and expertise, especially in areas such as religion and public life in Africa, contemporary Christianity, gender and sexuality.<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>
- Impact Acceleration Account 2019
- Sex and the Sacred: Queering Black Performing Arts in Cape Town, South Africa
- 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)
- African Association for the Study of Religions
- African Studies Association UK
- American Academy of Religion
- 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