Leveraging African Spirituality and Popular Culture betwixt Africa and the African Diaspora


  • Afe Adogame Princeton Theological Seminary
  • Ruth Vida Amwe Princeton Theological Seminary




africa, religion, spirituality, diaspora, popular culture, intersectionality


Ama McKinley’s article, ‘Beyoncé Serves African Spirituality in “Lemonade”’ in The Huffington Post (2016), depicts Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as ‘an artist of the Earth, using her stage and global influence to teach about the human condition, using symbology and language that is sacred and pronounced beyond a few approved circles’. This view partly epitomizes the resilience of African spirituality in the diaspora, where Beyoncé in ‘Lemonade’ invokes so much of the Yoruba tradition, grounded in African tradition, by offering a musical and visual journey through the African diaspora. African spiritualities touch on and imbue every facet of life and thus cannot be separated from quotidian, mundane thought. This article explores African spirituality as mostly concerned with the pursuit of cosmic balance and human flourishing through a matrix of worldviews, belief systems and ritual praxis. We employ Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s music albums Lemonade and Black is King; and Ryan Coogler’s movie Black Panther to explore the intersectionality of African spirituality and popular culture in the African diaspora. We demonstrate how and to what extent the religious, moral, sociocultural and popular imaginaries linked to indigenous African worldviews and the African diaspora are continually contested and negotiated.

Author Biographies

Afe Adogame, Princeton Theological Seminary

Afe Adogame is the Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Religion and Society, Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, USA. He is also Professor Extraordinaire at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. His teaching and research interests focus on interrogating new dynamics of religious experiences and expressions in Africa and the African diaspora, with a particular focus on African Christianities and new indigenous religious movements; the interconnectedness between religion and migration, globalization, politics, economy, media and the civil society. His most recent book publication is Indigeneity in African Religions: Oza Worldviews, Cosmologies and Religious Cultures (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021).

Ruth Vida Amwe, Princeton Theological Seminary

Ruth Vida Amwe is a PhD student in the Religion and Society program at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is broadly interested in the religious and social life of African women in pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Africa, both within the continent and its diaspora. Her research transverses across world Christianity, African religions, gender in African pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial histories, feminist and womanist theories, migration studies, African diasporic studies, and popular culture.


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How to Cite

Adogame, A. ., & Amwe, R. V. (2022). Leveraging African Spirituality and Popular Culture betwixt Africa and the African Diaspora. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 34(3), 242–266. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.21027