Justine M. Bakker is a doctoral student in the African American Religious Studies program at Rice University. She earned a BA in European Studies (2010) and Religious Studies (2011) from the University of Amsterdam, where she subsequently also completed the two-year research master program in Religious Studies (2013). Justine’s research interests include esotericism, mysticism, and gnosticism (specifically in black religion) and twentieth-century, post-migration, urban African American religion and religiosity.
Jonathan Chism received his PhD in Religious Studies from Rice University in 2014. He received a B.A. in Managerial Studies and Psychology from Rice University in 2004 and an M.Div (Summa Cum Laude) from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in 2008. In addition, he is the co-author of a book entitled Breaking Bread, Breaking Beats. He has presented academic papers at the American Academy of Religion Conference and the Society for Pentecostal Studies. He has published entries as a guest lectionary commentator with the African American Lectionary and several book reviews with the Rice Religious Studies Review. He has contributed entries to the Encyclopedia of the Black Power Movement. His current research interests include African American Pentecostalism, theology, and movements of social justice and social transformation. The title of his dissertation is: “The Saints Go Marching”: The Church of God in Christ and the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, Tennessee, 1954-1968. Chism currently is an adjunct history professor at Lone Star College and an associate pastor at St. John’s Downtown UMC.
Jessica B. Davenport
Jessica B. Davenport is a fourth-year doctoral student in the African American Religious Studies program at Rice University. She earned her BA from Spelman College with a major in Political Science and a minor in Writing. After graduating from Spelman, Jessica went on to Candler School of Theology at Emory University where she earned the Master of Divinity Degree along with a certificate in Black Church Studies. While at Candler, she was awarded the G. Ray Jordan Award for Excellence in Ministry and Scholarship. In 2011, Jessica was awarded a doctoral fellowship with The Fund for Theological Education. Her research interests include African American religion with a particular focus on notions of subjectivity and identity in black women’s literature and visual art.
Christopher Driscoll is a PhD candidate within the Religious Studies Department at Rice University, specializing in issues of race, society, culture and religion. After receiving his bachelor’s degree focused in religious studies and anthropology from Texas Christian University, Christopher continued at TCU, enrolling in Brite Divinity School where he obtained the M.T.S. degree with a focus in Black Church Studies. His master’s thesis explored black and womanist theological responses to the problem of redemptive suffering within the black Christian tradition, and he remains interested in understanding the exigencies of social suffering as they play out within and across social fields, cultural spaces and institutions. His current research interests and teaching includes theology and the social, philosophical theology, existential thought, social scientific theories of religion, race, theology and culture, liberation theologies and the interrelationship between religion and oppression. His dissertation seeks to theorize a cohesive white religious theological position operative within the United States historically and today. Christopher is also co-chair and founder of the American Academy of Religion’s “Critical Approaches to Hip Hop and Religion” group.
Dr. Emily Falconer
Dr. Emily Falconer is a Senior Research Assistant at the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy research, working in the areas of gender and sexuality. Having completed a PhD in gender and tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University (2012), Emily’s research explored the embodied and emotional experiences of independent women travellers. Her research interests focus on feminism, affect and emotion, incorporating theories from across the disciplines of sociology and human geography, and especially how changing feminist identities are tied in with emotional and embodied encounters and relationships. Within this, Emily draws on methodologies which attempt to capture the sensual and affective experiences of everyday life and powerful moments of visceral politics. Emily’s research interests further incorporate a sociological and geographical interest in global food culture, affective tastes and food tourism. Emily currently holds a position on the executive committee for the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association for the U.K and Ireland.
Biko Mandela Gray
Biko Mandela Gray is a fourth-year doctoral student in the African American Religious Studies program at Rice University. He earned his BA from Xavier University of Louisiana with a major in Political Science and a minor in Theology with a concentration in Latin American Liberation theology. After attending Xavier, Biko enrolled in Vanderbilt University Divinity School and earned his M.T.S. Degree, concentrating on constructive and systematic theology as well as African American religious thought. Biko’s current research interests are religious experience, embodiment with/in religion, continental philosophy, and religion and popular culture.
Melissa Marie Caldwell
Melissa Marie Caldwell is a doctoral student and Assistant Lecturer in the Religious Studies department at the University of Kent, Canterbury. Her academic research focuses on Buddhism, psychology and the cognitive sciences. More specifically, Melissa uses critical discourse analysis to examine how the cognitive sciences provide a legitimating function for the use of non-religious spirituality in the workplace through MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) programs. Prior to entering the PhD program at the University of Kent, Melissa earned her MA in Theory and Method in the Study of Religions (University of Kent, Canterbury) where her work focused on theories of cognition and the study of religion.
Jason O. Jeffries
Jason O. Jeffries is a doctoral candidate in African American Religion at Rice University. His research interests include how religion forms identity for African American males, the body as a source of religious experience, African American religious culture, and modes of religious resistance. Prior to matriculating through Rice University, Jason earned a Master of Divinity degree (M.Div.) from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University and a Master of Theology degree (Th.M.) at Union Presbyterian Seminary.
Aundrea Matthews is a PhD candidate in African American religious studies. She received a BS and MA from Texas Christian University and an MTS from Brite Divinity School. Aundrea was awarded the Emerging Black Church Studies Scholar Award from Brite Divinity School. Her area of interest is in African American quilts and their significance in the study of African American religion. She is a Rice University Graduate Student 90 Second Thesis Competition School of Humanities Winner. She is creator and curator of the Inaugural Quilting Exhibit entitled “Hearts, Hands, and Heritage: The Patchwork Soul of Houston at Rice University.” Aundrea was selected by the Northeast President of Houston Community College (HCC)- to create, curate, and manage the Northeast Art Hub Gallery. The Art Hub Galley hosts various art collections that stress the importance of infusing art with education for HCC students and surrounding communities. Aundrea has contributed commentaries to the African American Lectionary. She has presented papers at the South Central Modern Language entitled “Weaving Ourselves: The Art of African American Quilts”, the American Academy of Religion entitled “Talk to Me: Theological Discourse and the Hermeneutic of Reconciliation, and the Society of Christian Ethics entitled “It is an African Thing, and Now We Understand: The Legacy of Peter Paris”. She is also the founding President of A.C.E. @ Rice (Academic Cultural Empowerment at Rice), a student organization providing virtual tutors to high school students. Aundrea was awarded Citizen of the Year from Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Rho Beta Beta Chapter.
Cleve V. Tinsley IV
Cleve V. Tinsley IV is doctoral student in the Religious Studies program at Rice University. His academic research explores critical understandings of the wider social scientific and historical approaches to the study of religion in general and African-American religion in particular. More specifically, Cleve’s research focuses on the relation of religion to identity construction processes in African American communities and he trains as a research fellow in Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program, conducting and analyzing qualitative/ethnographic studies on a variety of themes in Houston and Chicago. He is a recipient of the Fund for Theological Education’s (FTE) Doctoral Fellowship and, prior to enrolling at Rice, earned his Master of Divinity (MDiv) at Princeton Theological Seminary. Cleve is also an adjunct professor at Springfield College where he teaches courses in religion, ethics, and African American literature and culture at their Houston School of Human Services.
David Kline is third-year doctoral student within the African American Religious Studies program at Rice University. In 2006 he received a bachelor’s degree in music studies from the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating from UT, David completed a Master of Letters in bible and the contemporary world from St. Andrews University in Scotland and later went on to receive a Master of Divinity from Duke University. David’s research interests include political theology and its relationship to racial formation and identity in the modern world, biopolitical thought, and critical theory.
Rachel Hanemann is working on her PhD at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Her research examines the role of the body in processes of religious formation and as a managed site of identity at an all-girls Catholic secondary school in London.
Sharde’ N. Chapman
Sharde’ N. Chapman is a doctoral student in African American Religion at Rice University. In 2010 she was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Rhodes College. While studying at Rhodes she studied Medieval and Renaissance Art History in Western Europe at Lincoln College, Oxford University. In 2009 she presented a paper titled “The Disintegration of Black Love,” which examined portrayals of romantic relationships in hip-hop culture at the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) Gender Conference. Her undergraduate thesis work centered on the marginalization of women in the Black Church. After graduating from Rhodes, Sharde’ went on to Union Presbyterian Seminary (formerly Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education) where she received her Master of Divinity degree in 2013. While at Union she was awarded the 2012 Independent Presbyterian Church Scholarship for Excellence in Service. She also had a paper published in the proceedings “Calling For the Order of the Day: Theological Education for the 21th Century Plural, Global, and Urbanized Society” in 2011. Sharde’s research interests include mysticism, Womanism, and the influence of social location on religious experience.
Yvette Taylor is Professor in Social and Policy Studies and Head of the Weeks Centre for Social and Policy Research, London South Bank University. She has held a Fulbright Scholarship at Rutgers University (2010-11) and a British Academy mid-career fellowship (2013-2014). Books include Fitting Into Place? Class and Gender Geographies and Temporalities (Ashgate, 2012); Lesbian and Gay Parenting: Securing Social and Educational Capitals (Palgrave, 2009) and Working-Class Lesbian Life: Classed Outsiders (Palgrave, 2007). Edited collections include Educational Diversity (Palgrave, 2012); Sexualities: Reflections and Futures (2012); Theorizing Intersectionality and Sexuality (Palgrave, 2010) and Classed Intersections: Spaces, Selves, Knowledges (Ashgate, 2010). She has articles in a range of journals including British Journal of the Sociology of Education, European Societies, Sociological Research Online, Sexualities, Feminist Theory. Yvette is currently working on an ESRC standard grant ‘Making space for queer identifying religious youth’ and recently completed an ESRC (2007-2009) funded project ‘From the Coal Face to the Car Park? Intersections of Class and Gender in the North East of England’. She is director of the MA Gender and Sexuality at the Weeks Centre.