The research network on ‘Religion, Aids and Social Transformation in Africa’ (RASTA) looks at the HIV/AIDS pandemic from a social-science perspective with the aim of complementing other often medicalized studies on the subject. The research network’s objective is to foster comparative and interdisciplinary work (in space and time) on the relationship between religion and HIV/AIDS in various parts of Africa by organizing workshops, conferences and joint publications. RASTA is the first social scientific network dedicated to research on religion and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
The organizers have identified the following five fields of possible exchange:
- The historicity of religion and disease
How different is the relationship between religion and HIV/AIDS from earlier forms of rapidly spreading and/or contagious diseases? The historicity of the subject situates current religious responses to HIV/AIDS in recent as well as earlier historical perspectives that explore processes of interaction between religion and a particular illness.
- Political economy of aid and AIDS
The AIDS pandemic emerged across Africa during the SAP years, the related reductions in state-based social services and constant, if not intensifying, poverty levels. These factors have created space for religious groups to provide services which added to the NGO-ization of religion. Can the pandemic be viewed as a context offering new opportunities for religious groups?
- Social organization, local customs and rights
HIV/AIDS is being used to reinforce religious stances on family and marriage practices including widow inheritance. Religious bodies also serve as implementers of national laws. What are the implications of changes in the civic functioning of religion and how do they affect the social fabric of everyday life involving social security, kinship and authority?
- Changing religious perceptions of life with HIV/AIDS
Increased access to life-prolonging drugs (ARVs) is contributing to new perceptions of HIV/AIDS and what it is to live with HIV/AIDS. How do religious organizations act towards marriages, households and families that have to deal with (the symptoms of) HIV/AIDS? What kind of religious and moral interpretations of AIDS, sexuality and the body are being produced, and how do they compete for truth claims about such matters?
Practices of counselling connect religion to HIV/AIDS as a practice of identity-making since it offers religion access to the individual’s intimate social, emotional and moral situation. How are linkages produced between the public and the private, as well as new forms of ‘civilizing projects’ making people understand what to disclose and how to speak and act?
Prof. Dr. Rijk van Dijk, Chair (African Studies Centre, Leiden & University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
Dr. Catrine Christiansen (Centre for African Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Dilger (Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany)
Prof. Dr. Amy Patterson (Department of Political Science, Calvin College, USA)
Dr. Marian Burchardt (Max Planck Institute, Göttingen, Germany)
Dr. Astrid Bochow (Max Planck Institute, Halle, Germany)
Dr. Nadine Beckmann (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, United Kingdom)
Edward Baralemwa (PACANET, Kampala, Uganda)
Prof. Dr. Rijk van Dijk, African Studies Centre, Leiden & University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands., firstname.lastname@example.org