Jacob K. Olupona

Jacob K. Olupona
Professor of African Religious Traditions, with a joint appointment as Professor of African and African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Contact information

jkolupona@hds.harvard.edu
CSWR 114
Derek Martin
617.495.4486

Education

  • BA, University of Nigeria
  • MA, PhD, Boston University

Profile

Jacob K. Olupona, who joined the Faculty of Divinity and Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 2006, is a noted scholar of indigenous African religions. His current research focuses on the religious practices of the estimated one million Africans who have emigrated to the United States over the last 40 years, examining in particular several populations that remain relatively invisible in the American religious landscape: "reverse missionaries" who have come to the United States to establish churches, African Pentecostals in American congregations, American branches of independent African churches, and indigenous African religious communities in the United States. His earlier research ranged across African spirituality and ritual practices, spirit possession, Pentecostalism, Yoruba festivals, animal symbolism, icons, phenomenology, and religious pluralism in Africa and the Americas. In his book City of 201 Gods: Ilé-Ifè in Time, Space, and the Imagination, he examines the modern urban mixing of ritual, royalty, gender, class, and power, and how the structure, content, and meaning of religious beliefs and practices permeate daily life. His other books include Òrìsà Devotion as World Religion: The Globalization of Yorùbá Religious Culture, co-edited with Terry Rey, and Kingship, Religion, and Rituals in a Nigerian Community: A Phenomenological Study of Ondo Yoruba Festivals, which has become a model for ethnographic research among Yoruba-speaking communities. In 2012, he was named one of Harvard's Walter Channing Cabot Fellows, for distinguished publications. Olupona has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the Ford Foundation, the Davis Humanities Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Getty Foundation. He has served on the editorial boards of three influential journals and as president of the African Association for the Study of Religion. In 2000, Olupona received an honorary doctorate in divinity from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and in 2007 he received the Nigerian National Order of Merit, that country's prestigious award given each year for intellectual accomplishment in the four areas of science, medicine, engineering/technology, and humanities.

Current and future courses

Selected publications

  • Òrìsà Devotion as World Religion: The Globalization of Yorùbá Religious Culture (University of Wisconsin Press, 2008) Publisher page
  • City of 201 Gods: Ilé-Ifè in Time, Space, and the Imagination (University of California Press, 2011) Publisher page

Media expertise

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