I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion at Florida State University (FSU) and the Co-Founder and Associate Director of Front Porch Research Strategy in New Orleans. I earned my Ph.D. in North American Religions from Columbia University, my M.T.S. in Islamic Studies from Harvard Divinity School, and my B.A. in Religion and Peace & Conflict Studies from Haverford College. Prior to joining the FSU faculty, I was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Dartmouth College.
As a scholar of religion, gender, and race in the United States, I bring a particular focus on the American South and Gulf Coast. My work is deeply interdisciplinary, bridging the fields of anthropology, geography, queer studies, Black studies, carceral studies, and public health. It is also deeply collaborative. As a longtime student of social movements, I work in partnership with community organizers to study the enduring and often-hidden histories of struggle that fill our present and ask how people are using religion to imagine and build the world otherwise.
Co-thinking and co-creating scholarship in these ways has fueled a breadth of intersecting and interlocking research interests: criminalization, migration, reproductive justice, HIV/AIDS, and land dispossession, to name a few. My first book project, Fire Dreams, is a collaborative ethnography of activist persistence and the sacred terrain of Black feminist history-making, undertaken in partnership with the leaders of New Orleans’ Women With A Vision after their offices were firebombed and destroyed in a still-uninvestigated arson attack. My next book project, “Moral Medicine,” is a historical ethnography of race, religion, and gendered punishment, which traces the continuities between nineteenth-century carceral imaginaries and our current era of mass criminalization––as well as the abolitionist possibilities that have been grown and sheltered in these darkest of institutions. Additionally, I am also engaged in two public humanities projects: the first, “Refusing to Vanish,” maps Muslim women’s AIDS activism throughout the African diaspora; the second, “To Instill Love for My People,” moves with Chicago elders as they reassemble the communities decimated by mass criminalization.
My research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the Institute for Religion, Culture, & Public Life, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, and the Dartmouth College Venture Fund. I also remain deeply enmeshed in the movements to end AIDS and prisons in which I was raised more than twenty years ago. I am the co-founder of TEACH Outside, Prison Health News, and the Institute for Community Justice, as well as the national Religion and Incarceration activist/academic forum. Currently, I serve as a Board Member to Men & Women In Prison Ministries in Chicago, and Reconstruction Inc. in Philadelphia.