Introduction to African Cultures and Religion

Program Overview:
This program is a graduate one-credit program designed to introduce students to fundamental structures of contemporary African cultures, religion and political and economic realities of Kenya (Note: Another lecture topic can be selected for the third day at the request of a group of students).

Program Description:
The program consists of three mornings of lectures, one on Africa culture, one on African religion and one on Kenyan Political and Economic realities.

In the afternoons students do field research, directed by the lecturer of the day and  facilitated by MIASMU trained field assistants. The field assistants work with students on a one-to-one basis.

In the late afternoon, there is a debriefing session on the field work. After supper, the students write a two-page paper on what had been observed and understood on the topic of the day, and read assigned materials.

At the end of the three day period, students consolidate their papers in the form of a six-page essay with an introduction, conclusion and bibliography. The students are graded on the essay and class participation.


Day One: African Cultures in a Contemporary Mode

  • The primary socializing community of Africans

  • The resilience of African cultures in the contemporary world

  • The African response to ordinary human events and happenings

Field Research Task for the day: Visiting Diviners/herbalist and/or Western dispensaries

Day Two: African Traditional Religion: Contemporary Beliefs and Practices

  • A world-class religion embracing a half a billion people south of the Sahara

  • The primary spirituality of all living Africans

  • The source of all human spiritualities worldwide, including Christianity and Islam

  • The dual religious consciousness of many Moslem and Christian Africans

Field Research Task for the day: Visiting Independent and/or mainline churches and interviewing their leaders 

* Day Three: The Political and Economic Situation in Kenya (Note another topic can be selected for the third day that corresponds to the interest of the students)

  • The effects of the World Bank and the IMF on Kenya’s development

  • The political and economic effects of Kenya’s relationships with foreign companies and nations

  • How the European conflicts (beginning with the colonial era and into the world and cold wars) affected and distorted Kenya’s economic and political development

Field Research Task for the day: Visiting development projects and/or interviewing a member of the government

The lecture of the third day is tailor made to suit the group that is taking the three-day course. For instance if it is a group that intends to work in the health sector, then on this day they have a lecture on Health and healing in Africa today instead of the political and economic situation in Kenya. 


Armstrong, K. (2004). A History of God: The 4000- year quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.    New York: Gramercy Books.

_______. (2000). Islam: A Short History. New York: Modern Library.

Ayisi, E. O. (1972). An Introduction to African Culture. London: Heinemann.

Gyekye, K. (1996). African Cultural Values: An Introduction. Philadelphia: Sankofa Publishing Company.

Kirwen , M. C. (2010). African Cultural Domains: Cycle of Family and Interpersonal Relationships. Nairobi: MIAS Books

____________ (2008). African Cultural Domains: Life Cycle of an Individual: Nairobi: MIAS Books.

_____________ (2005). African Cultural Knowledge: Themes and Embedded Beliefs. Nairobi: MIAS Books

Mbiti, J.S. (1975). Introduction to African Religion. New York: Praeger.

Magesa. Laurenti. (1997). African Religion: The Moral Traditions of Abundant Life. New York: Orbis Books.

Onwuejeogwu, M.A. (1975). Social Anthropology of Africa. London: Heinemann.

One Credit Course Application Forms