Featured HRAF Global Scholar: Loreen Maseno

Global Scholars Program

HRAF Global Scholar: Dr. Loreen Maseno, PhD
Title: Senior Lecturer, Department of Religion, Theology and Philosophy
University Affiliation: Maseno University, Kenya
Research Topic: Food in African Spirituality

Loreen MasenoLoreen Maseno received her PhD from the University of Oslo, Norway in an interdisciplinary academic program covering kinship studies, theology, and gender. Her graduate research focused on ethnographic studies among the Abanyole people of rural Western Kenya. Since her return to Kenya, she has been challenged by limited access to online databases. The HRAF Global Scholars program has provided Loreen with much welcomed access to an extensive repository of ethnographic and archaeological information. Loreen uses materials from the eHRAF database for citations in research publications and for teaching graduate courses at Maseno University.

Loreen describes the importance of the HRAF Global Scholars program:

This HRAF Global Scholars program is visionary in itself and speaks to the times we live in. There is the growing and persistent demand for more and more digital content. I cannot rely on hard copies in the University library to work, thus any access to online databases will go a long way to allow me to be on the cutting edge of research. The eHRAF databases will be of great help for me to create compelling content and demand for the undergraduate and postgraduate courses I teach.

Loreen has traditionally undertaken multidisciplinary work, which benefits significantly from the eHRAF collections that cover all aspects of cultural and social life. eHRAF features information on cultural subjects including religion, gender, and sexuality and contains ethnographic texts which are useful to Loreen in her current research aimed at understanding cultures in Kenya and beyond.

According to Loreen, having access to online database materials through the HRAF Global Scholars program should be seen as investing in the human resources of people in developing countries. To that she adds, “This goes a long way to enable and facilitate uptake of new ideas and intersections for the future through its careful study. Given this opportunity, I shall commit a lot of my time and energy to use these online materials.”

In November 2020, Loreen began collaborating with two scholars from Uganda, Dr. David Omona and Dr. Robert Kuloba, on a project titled Food in African Spirituality. The project focuses on the centrality of food in all aspects of the social, economic, political, and spiritual life of African communities. Examining the topic from the vantage point of food systems, this project explores the question of why people place a premium on inclusion of the spirituality of food, and how understanding such could help the researchers look at implications from the absence of food in African religious-cultural contexts. To this end, the project looks at how the forces of urbanization, modernization, and globalization are changing people’s definition of food and how such changes affect people’s spirituality. This study seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What roles do the socio-cultural and religious of people life play in food processes in Africa generally, and in Kenya and Uganda in particular?
  • How is the African spirituality in food processes preserved in modern African world Christianities?
  • Since Africans have, from time immemorial, used food as a sign of showing fellowship between the living, the dead, and the ancestral spirits? To what extent can food facilitate socio-spiritual cohesion in African Christianity at present, particularly in Kenya and Uganda?

The ethnographic collections in eHRAF World Cultures that have been most relevant to Loreen in her research have been Bagisu (FK13), Ganda (FK07), and Luo (FL11). Some of the documents which Loreen has referenced in her work are listed below.

The HRAF Global Scholars program has been instrumental in providing Loreen with access to an extensive repository of data on hundreds of world cultures and archaeological traditions. The eHRAF databases enable her to conduct rigorous research without costly travel to libraries and archives in other countries. Loreen hopes that her university will become a member of the of the eHRAF databases after her year of complimentary access has been completed.

HRAF is honored to feature Loreen Maseno as one of our HRAF Global Scholars for 2021. We wish her continued success with her research.

To support funding priorities such as the HRAF Global Scholars program and the development of our open access resources (Explaining Human Culture, Teaching eHRAF, and Introducing Cross-Cultural Research), please consider making a tax-deductible donation.



Anna, Mother M. 1940. “Notes on the Preparation of Food in Buganda.” Primitive Man: Quarterly Bulletin of the Catholic Anthropological Conference Vol. 13 (no. 1): 26–28. https://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/document?id=fk07-010.

Heald, Suzette. 1989. “Controlling Anger: The Sociology of Gisu Violence.” In International African Library, xi, 296. Manchester [England]: Manchester University Press, for the International African Institute, London; Distributed in the USA and Canada by St. Martin’s Press. https://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/document?id=fk13-003.

Shipton, Parker MacDonald. 1989. “Bitter Money: Cultural Economy and Some African Meanings of Forbidden Commodities.” In American Ethnological Society Monograph Series, vi, 94. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association. https://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/document?id=fl11-024.