Religion and Heritage

Photo: Marleen de Witte

Religion and heritage form an intriguing relation, which we seek to further explore in our research. We are interested in the rise of heritage as a political category that bestows value on tangible and intangible religious forms in a new secular frame.

Such processes occur not only with regard to the culturalisation of Christianity as heritage that occurs across Europe, but also in countries as Ghana or Kenya, where heritage becomes a category revaluing indigenous religious forms as “culture.” In this way, new futures for religious pasts are imagined that give shape to politics of belonging.

We also we pay attention to the role of Christian mission societies in destroying indigenous religions in areas of European colonial outreach across the globe, burning “fetishes” and “idols” or collecting them for European ethnological and other museums. Such colonial missionary collections become an apt starting point for tracking the spatial and conceptual transformations of collected items from their places of origin through various stages, raising questions of restitution and possible futures of these collections for the descendants of their former users. To what extent is such religious heritage still sacred? And how do followers of indigenous religions themselves figure in global heritage politics? What are the opportunities and challenges offered by the current heritage buzz, in which indigenous groups may aim to protect their culture and religion as heritage? In other words, our research analyses the transformations of the sacred that occur when religion is valued as (secular) heritage in different parts of the world.


  • Religious Pluralism, Cultural Heritage, Religion and Conflict, Youth, Anthropology of Religion, Africa
  • Material Religion, Cultural Heritage, Religion in the Public Sphere, Religion and Media, Postcolonial Criticism, Christian Missions in West Africa, Pentecostalism, Lived Religion, The Senses, Aesthetics, Globalisation, Popular Culture, Visual Culture
  • Secularism, Political Philosophy, Anthropology of Religion, Sociology of Religion, Religious Pluralism, Material Religion, Freedom of Religion, Public Religion and Politics, Religious Tolerance


Dr Marleen de Witte, Dr Rita Amaral, Dr Amélie Roussillon