Religiosity, Youth, Digital Media and Civil Society in Africa and Asia (2022-2025)

Religiosity, Youth, Digital Media and Civil Society in Africa and Asia (2022-2025)

Project Period (FY)2022 – 2025
JSPS Research CategoryFund for the Promotion of Joint International Research (Fostering Joint International Research (B))
Review SectionMedium-sized Section 4:Geography, cultural anthropology, folklore, and related fields 

Research Institution Kyoto University

Outline of the Project

 By the end of the 20th century, it was believed that religiosity would no longer be present in the public sphere. However, it has had a significant impact on civil society in Africa and Asia in the 21st century; challenging both the state and the secular political realm. Globalization has allowed youth-led religious movements to have an impact on all social spaces, including the private and political, particularly since 2000. How is religiosity among the digital native generation creating new audiences in this age of multipolarity? In this study, we will examine the current use of ICT by young believers and the transformation of civil society in three African countries and three Asian countries, including Japan, where the political forms and religious backgrounds are different, using nine case studies that constitute the majority or minority of the society.

Background and Aim

Since the 1980s, with the rapid liberalization of politics and economics following the defeat of ideologies such as Marxism and communism that had supported post-independence state and rebel movements, religiosity has become visible again by presenting a new model of order formation to the younger generations. This can be seen in the Islamic revival movements of young people in Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, and Indonesia; in the political movements for the return of religion, such as Christianity and Hindu nationalism that have been activated by the introduction of secularism in Nepal; or movements with a strong orientation toward spirituality, such as Ugandan evangelicals ; or religious practices by minorities in globalized societies such as Muslim communities in Japan or the new Japanese religions that have spread to Africa. These movements embrace a variety of forms and relationships with the social and political sphere. Rather than going against modernity and globalization, they have shaped contemporary African and Asian civil society in the age of globalization.

What are the trends in these movements? How do these young believers actually impact political and civil life? The purpose of this joint research program is to conduct a comparative analysis of the current state of religiosity and ICT use among the youth in contemporary African and Asian countries with different social, religious, and political backgrounds.

Literature Review and Significance of the Study

Research on the relationship between religiosity, youth culture, and politics in Africa and Asia has been accumulated from the fields of history, sociology, and political anthropology, in addition to religious studies, regarding local life and worldviews, and in relation to social movements since the modern era. (O’Brien, 1971 ; Glifford 1998 ; Thompson, 2014,  et cetera)

In terms of the relationship between religion, media, and ICT, case studies have been conducted since the 1990s, especially since 2000, as these religious communities, movements, and younger generations of believers have begun to use the Internet and media (traditional and new). For example, on Islam and the media (Eckelman & Anderson, 1999; Gary Bunt, 2009), on religiosity and the media in Africa (Hachette, Soares and al., 2015), or on the movement of religious groups using ICTs to propagate globally (Faimau, Gabriel; Lesitaokana, 2018), and other new cases were the subject of research.

Based on the research progression described above, the significance of this study lies in the following two points:

1) The need for interdisciplinary comparative research on religiosity and civil society in Africa and Asia.

In previous studies, there are few precedents for interdisciplinary joint research linking multiple African and Asian regions with global trends. As globalization itself has become an old-fashioned concept, updating research findings on how the new generation of young Africans and Asians are using ICTs to develop new religiosity and civil societies is a challenge for the social sciences.

2) New perspectives and methodological developments linking the political sphere with everyday religious practice and the use of ICTs

This research will link the political space with the everyday life space and religious practice of young people’s use of ICTs, and conduct case studies ranging from qualitative data (testimonies of believers, everyday physicality, et cetera) to political practices. It will analyze content and discourse in religious media and social networking sites by incorporating new methods, such as online interviews and online qualitative research. This project is significant in that it aims to pioneer a new approach by a joint team of international researchers on a topic that has been separated into many fields, including religious studies and social informatics.

Research Methods and Subjects

Methods: This study is essentially based on field research. Quantitative and qualitative data will be collected in the research. In addition, we will analyze the discourse on SNS and in the media.

Subjects: The following case studies will be surveyed in this study.

1) Islamic Movements and Religious Media in Senegal

2) Islamic NGOs in Urban Côte d’Ivoire

3) Islam, Higher Education, and ICT in Niger

4) Muslim Fashion and Halal Market in Indonesia

5) Second and Third Generations of Muslims in Japan

6) Christian Evangelicals and Related Movements in Uganda

7) Christianity Against the Secularizing State and Hindu Nationalism

8) Japanese New Religions in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire

9) Spiritual Culture and New Religions in Japan

Project Structure

 NameAffiliationAreas of work
Project leaderKae AmoKyoto UniversityOverall coordination of the joint research. Research areas include Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire (+Kashio). Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire (+Kashio) and Islamic communities in Japan (+Nonaka).
Japanese MembersNaoki KashioKeio University  Mainly new religions in Japan and Côte d’Ivoire (+Louveau). Coordination of value structural analysis of discourses in digital spaces.
 Yo NonakaKeio UniversityYoung Digital Natives in Indonesia and the Islamic Community in Japan (+Amo) Summary of research results in the Asian region.
 Mituru NiwaKyoai Gakuen UniversityA survey of Nepalese civil society and political-religious movements, especially among the younger generation.
 Yuko TobinaiMorioka UniversityA study of the movement for the Christian revival in Uganda. Civil Society and religious revival in Africa.
International MembersFrédérique LOUVEAUUniversité Gaston BergerStudy on Sukyo Mahikari in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire; Interviews on ICT use among young believers.
 Mrigendra KARKITribhuvan UniversityAnalysis of Nepal’s political background and survey on ICT use
 Paddy MUSANAMakerere UniversityEvangelical and Pentecostal Christians in Uganda
 Abdoulaye SOUNAYEThe Centre for Modern Oriental Studies in Berlin (ZMO)Study on Youth, Digital Media and Higher Education in West Africa (Niger, Nigeria)

Research Schedule

The overall research implementation plan consists of regular monthly study meetings with overseas teams to report, discuss, and analyze the results of the survey jointly, an annual general meeting, and two overseas workshops during the research period (to be held in Senegal in 2023 and in Indonesia in 2025), leading to the final report and publication of the results. The results will be shared and jointly analyzed through periodic research meetings.

FY2022: A kick-off study meeting will be held to determine the direction of the joint research.

Starting research on the respective literature and digital space using the Internet. Based on the research plan, two domestic surveys (Kyoto and Tokyo) and an overseas survey (Indonesia) are planned.

FY2023: We will conduct overseas surveys (Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire / Uganda / Nepal) and domestic surveys (Kyoto / Tokyo).

In the first half of the fiscal year, we will present research reports by Japanese researchers in Kyoto and prepare for a workshop in Senegal scheduled in the second half of the fiscal year. At the end of the fiscal year, we will hold a mid-term workshop in Senegal jointly with overseas collaborating researchers.

FY2024: In addition to continuing domestic surveys (mainly in Tokyo), overseas surveys (Nepal, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal) will be conducted. The Kyoto plenary session will be held with the participation of overseas subcontractors attending online. Starting writing a book based on the research results and preparing for publication.

FY2025: Conduct a confirmation survey (Nepal / Indonesia). The final report will be prepared through a preparatory meeting for the final workshop in Tokyo (at Keio University), attended mainly by Japanese researchers. In the final workshop in Indonesia in the second half of the year, we will jointly present the results of the workshop with overseas researchers and make final adjustments for publication.


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