Prof Olukoya Ogen and Dr Insa Nolte during research in Ogun Waterside LGA

Introducing ‘Knowing Each Other’

Since the end of the Cold War, and especially since September 2001, most research exploring religious difference, and especially Muslim-Christian relations, has focused on politics and the public sphere. At the same time, the majority of detailed work on the role of religion for everyday life focuses on the practices and transformations within Muslim or Christian societies. As a result, we know very little about the practices that structure the fine grain of everyday life in religiously mixed societies.

In order to understand how people relate to those of other religions in everyday life, we need to study the way in which everyday encounters with religious difference contribute to the constitution of important social identities associated with locality, class, gender and generation. Because such identities serve as an anchor for wider social and political dispositions, they play a significant role in determining the nature of social relations – including the degree of religious tolerance – within a society.

Unlike many parts of the world, the over 30 million Yoruba speakers of south-west Nigeria have experienced a historically low degree of religious conflict although they are both Muslims and Christians, with smaller numbers of traditionalists. Interpersonal relationships between Yoruba Muslims, Christians and traditionalists are also different from those in many other societies, which tend to characterised by mutual suspicion and social distance. In contrast, members of different religions among the Yoruba interact with each other frequently and on an everyday basis, and the ability to engage responsibly with members of different religious is an important part of most peoples’ lives.

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