Dianne M. Stewart

Associate Professor of Religion and African American Studies (on leave 2017 - 2018)

Biography

Dianne Marie Stewart is an associate professor of Religion and African American Studies at Emory University specializing in African heritage religious cultures in the Caribbean and the Americas.  She was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and grew up in Hartford, CT, USA.  She obtained her B.A. degree from Colgate University in English and African American Studies, her M. Div. degree from Harvard Divinity School and her Ph. D. degree in systematic theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where she studied with well-known scholars such as Delores Williams, the late James Washington and her advisor James Cone. Dr. Stewart joined Emory’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 2001 and teaches courses in the graduate and undergraduate programs.

Dr. Stewart’s research and teaching interests cover a wide range of topics under the umbrella of Africana religions with attention to religious thought and practices of African-descended people in the Anglophone Caribbean and the United States; womanist approaches to religion and society; theory and method in Africana religious studies and the impact of African civilizations upon religious formation in the African diaspora. Dr. Stewart’s first monograph, Three Eyes for the Journey: African Dimensions of the Jamaican Religious Experience (Oxford University Press, 2005), offers a historically and ethnographically grounded theological analysis of the motif of liberation in Jamaica’s African heritage religious cultures from the 18th to the 21st century. Dr. Stewart second co-authored, book (with Tracey Hucks) will be published by Duke University Press.  Based upon five years of research in Trinidad and Tobago, including one consecutive year of residence. Religious Vocabularies of Africa: Obeah, Orisa and Identity in Trinidad, provides a much needed historical, ethnographic account of African religions in Trinidad.  It also moves beyond earlier scholarship in approaching the issue of African “retentions” with deeper analysis of the phenomenological, discursive and wider cultural terrains in which Africa and Africanness are collectively and contentiously deployed in religious meaning-making among Afro-Trinidadians and other African diaspora communities. 

Beyond her work in Trinidad and Jamaica, Dr. Stewart has studied and lectured in a number of African, Latin American, and Caribbean countries, including Nigeria, The Benin Republic, South Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Bermuda.  In 2006-2007, she spent a year and a half conducting archival and field research as a Fulbright Scholar in the Democratic Republic of Congo where she focused on the history of religions in Central Africa during the slave period and prophetic religious movements in Congo today.  Her current book project Local and Transnational Legacies of African Christianity in West-Central Africa and the Black Atlantic World builds upon this research to explore how 18th-century Kongolese Catholicism inspired the formation of Afro-Protestant institutions among African descendants in the wider 18th- and 19th-century Atlantic world.  From the southeastern coastal Afro-Methodist/ Baptist traveling and seeking rites, to the rise of cognate Native Baptist, Revival Zion and Spiritual Baptist traditions in Jamaica and Trinidad, the book demonstrates how a Kongo Christian heritage lent central ingredients to this African Atlantic terrain of religious exchange and innovation.

Dr. Stewart’s most recent articles and essays include:  “Religious Pluralism and African American Theology” (2014); “Matricentric Foundations of Africana Women’s Religious Practices of Peacebuilding, Sustainability and Social Change” (2013); and “Africana Religious Studies: Toward a Transdisciplinary Agenda in an Emerging Field,” which appeared in the first issue of the Journal of Africana Religions in January 2013.  Her essay, “Kumina: A Spiritual Vocabulary of Nationhood in Victorian Jamaica,” will be published in a forthcoming volume, Victorian Jamaica (Timothy Barringer and Wayne Modest eds., Duke University Press, 2018). 

Over her career at Emory, Dr. Stewart has won several awards and fellowships, including the Emory College of Arts and Sciences’ Distinguished Advising Award, the Emory University Laney Graduate School’s Eleanor Main Graduate Faculty Mentor Award and a Senior Fellowship at the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry which she is currently fulfilling.  Among her service contributions Dr. Stewart is most proud of her nine-year leadership of Emory’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program, an international initiative that aims to diversify the academy by helping students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups to earn the Ph.D. degree and secure teaching positions at tertiary institutions across the United States and South Africa.  Dr. Stewart has also served on several committees within the American Academy of Religion, and she is a founding co-editor, with Drs. Jacob Olupona and Terrence Johnson, of the Religious Cultures of African and African Diaspora People series at Duke University Press.  Its most recent title, Religion and the Making of Nigeria, by Dr. Olufemi Vaughan, was released December 2016.

Recent Undergraduate Courses

Black Love

Global Black Feminisms/Womanisms: Epistemology, Spirituality & the Politics of Representation

Black Christian Thought

African American Religion: African Religious Cultures in the Americas and the Caribbean

African American Religion: Black Religions of Protest

African American Religion: The Black Church in the African American Experience

Select Books/Articles/Essays

Three Eyes for the Journey:  African Dimensions of the Jamaican Religious Experience, Oxford University Press, 2005

“Rethinking Indigenous Africana Sources of Womanist-Feminist Activisms in the 21st Century,” Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion Vol. 7, Issue 1.4 (July 2016), 1-29

“Religious Pluralism and African American Theology,” The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology, edited by Katie Cannon and Anthony Pinn, 331-350. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014

“Matricentric Foundations of Africana Women’s Religious Practices of Peacemaking, Sustainability, and Social Change,” Bulletin of Ecumenical Theology Vol. 25 (2013): 61-79

“Africana Religious Studies: Toward a Transdisciplinary Agenda in an Emerging Field,” co-authored with Tracey E. Hucks in Journal of Africana Religions Vol. 1, no. 1 (January 2013): 28-77

“Visitation: The Legacy of African-Derived Religions in Jamaica,” Caribbean Cultural Thought: From Plantation to Diaspora, edited by Yanique Hume and Aaron Kamugisha, 509-553. Kingston: Ian Randle Press, 2013 (reprinted from Dianne M. Stewart, Three Eyes for the Journey, chapter four, 139-187)

“Orisha Traditions in the West,” The Hope of Liberation in World Religions, edited by Miguel A. De La Torre, 239-256. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2008

 “Collecting on Their Investments One Woman at a Time:  Economic Partnerships Among Caribbean Immigrant Women in the United States,” International Journal of African Renaissance Studies 2:1 (July 2007): 35-57

“Dancing Limbo:  Black Passages Through the Boundaries of Place, Race, Class, and Religion” in Deeper Shades of Purple:  Womanist Approaches in Religion and Society, edited by Stacey Floyd-Thomas, 82-97. New York:  NYU Press, 2006

“Indigenous Wisdom at Work in Jamaica:  The Power of Kumina,” Indigenous Peoples’ Wisdom and Power:  Affirming Our Knowledge Through Narratives, edited by Ivy Goduka and Julian Kunnie, 127-142. London:  Ashgate Publishers, 2006

“Women in African Caribbean Religious Traditions,” in Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America, edited by Rosemary Skinner Kellar and Rosemary Radford Ruether, 116-126. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006

“African American Religion: History of Study” co-authored with Tracey E. Hucks in Encyclopedia of Religion, Volume 1, 2nd edition, edited by Lindsay Jones, 73-83. Detroit: Macmillan, 2005

“African-Derived Religions in Jamaica:  Polyvalent Repertoires of Culture and Identity in the Black Atlantic,” Contours:  A Journal of the African Diaspora 3:2 (Fall 2005): 74-112

“Authenticity and Authority in the shaping of Trinidad Orisha Identity: Toward an African-Derived Religious Theory,” co-authored with Tracey Hucks in Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 27, no. 3 (Fall 2003): 176-185