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Oludamini Ogunnaike

Associate Professor of African Religious Thought and Democracy


  • PhD (African Studies and the Study of Religion), Harvard University
  • MPhil (African Studies and the Study of Religion), Harvard University
  • A.B. (Cognitive Neuroscience and African Studies), Harvard College

Research Interests

My research examines the philosophical and artistic dimensions of postcolonial, colonial, and pre-colonial Islamic and indigenous religious traditions of West and North Africa, especially Sufism and Ifa. My research falls into two general areas: a) the intellectual history and literary studies of the Islamic and indigenous traditions of West Africa, and b) employing the insights and ideas from these traditions to contribute to contemporary philosophical debates relevant to a variety of disciplines.

I am the author of Deep Knowledge: Ways of Knowing in Sufism and Ifa, Two West African Intellectual Traditions (Penn State University Press, 2020), winner of the Outstanding First Book Prize of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD)  and Poetry in Praise of Prophetic Perfection: West African Madīḥ Poetry and its Precedents (Islamic Texts Society, 2020). 

Funded by a grant from the Templeton Project, and in collaboration with colleagues I've recently begun a project on Sufi poetry and poetic knowledge, and am working on manuscripts on Yoruba mythology, Islamic philosophy in pre-colonial West Africa, and Afro-Carribbean and African Islamic decolonial thought and praxis.

I also work on the Philosophy of Religion, African Philosophy, Anthropology, Decoloniality, Race, and the modern state in Africa.


  • Introduction to Yoruba Religions
  • Religion and Society in Nigeria
  • Introduction to Islam in Africa through the Arts
  • Introduction to African Philosophy: Race, Religion, Rationality
  • What Is Love? Reflections on Love from the Islamic Tradition
  • Education in West Africa

Selected Publications

  • "From Theory to Theoria and Back Again and Beyond: Decolonizing the Study of Africana Religions." Journal of Africana Religions 10, no. 2 (2022): 174-211
  • "The Logic of the Birds: Poetry and Poetic Knowledge," Renovatio 5, no. 2 (Spring 2022)
  • "At the Movies with African Sufis" Renovatio 
  • “Of Cannons and Canons: The Promise and Perils of Post-Colonial Education” Renovatio 2no. 2 (Fall 2018): 25-39.
  • An Elegy for George Floyd (Qasida), Sapelo Square
  • “The Transcendent Ethics of Tarbiya: Ibrahim Niasse’s Maqamat al-din al-thalath” in Mysticism and Ethics in Islam, Bilal Orfali and Mohammed Rustom (eds.) Beirut: AUB Press, 2021: 407-228.
  • “A Treatise on Practical and Theoretical Sufism in the Sokoto Caliphate: Shaykh Dan Tafa’s Exposition of Devotions (Bayān al-Taʿabbudāt).” Journal of Sufi Studies 10, no. 1-2 (2021): 152-173.
  • “Philosophical Sufism in the Sokoto Caliphate: The Case of Shaykh Dan Tafa” forthcoming in New Directions in the Study of Islamic Scholarship in Africa. Ousmane Kane (ed.)
  • “Islamic Philosophies of Education in Africa” forthcoming in The Palgrave Handbook of African Education and Indigenous Knowledge
  • “African Philosophy Reconsidered: Religion, Race, and Rationality” Journal of Africana Religions 5, no. 2 (2017): 181-216.
  • “Performing Realization: The Sufi Music Videos of the Taalibe Baye of Dakar” African Arts 5,1 no. 3 (2018): 26-39.
  • “In the Gardens with Ibrahim: An Evaluation of Fī riyā al-tafsīr by Shaykh Ibrahim Niasse, a Contemporary, Traditional Tafsīr,” The Journal of Qur’anic Studies 20, vol. 1 (2018): 28-46.
  • “African Philosophy Reconsidered: Religion, Race, and Rationality” Journal of Africana Religions 5, no. 2 (2017): 181-216.
  • “Annihilation in the Messenger of God Revisited: Clarifications on a Contemporary Sufi Practice and its Precedents" The Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies 1, no. 2 (2016): 13-34.
  • “The Poetry of Presence, the Presence of Poetry: A Study of Arabic Sufi Poetry in Contemporary Dakar” The Journal of Sufi Studies 5, no. 1 (2016): 58-97
  • “An Akbarī approach to the Problem of Pure Consciousness” Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society, Volume 61 (2017): 17-42.
  • “Islam in English” co-authored with Mohammed Rustom, The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 36(2): 102-111.
  • “Silent Theology: The Importance of Islamic Art” Renovatio 1, no. 2 (Fall 2017)
  • “Ibn Khaldun: Father of the Social Sciences” in Global Africa: Into the Twenty-First Century, Dorothy Hodgson and Judith Byfield (eds.).(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017):10-16.
  • “From Heathen to Subhuman: A Genealogy of the Influence of the Decline of Religion on the Rise of Modern Racism” Open Theology2, no. 1 (2016): 785-803.
  • “Inception and Ibn ‘Arabi” Journal of Religion and Film 17, no. 2 (2013): Article 10 (online journal)

Selected Awards and Grants 

  • Art Seeking Understanding Grant, The Templeton Religion Trust, 2022
  • Outstanding First Book Prize of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), 2021
  • Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society Young Writers’ Award, 2016-17