Season 4, Episode 3

Religion & Hip Hop

Popular culture productions often reflect the deepest concerns of a society. It is in these movies, literature, and music that a culture and its artists do the work of unpacking the fears and aspirations of a generation and even a nation. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop, America as well as the wider globe has reflected upon Hip Hop’s origins in Black expressive cultures, its unique contributions, and its evolving shape and reach. This panel seeks to address the ways in which Hip Hop has and continues to function as a type of script or scripture for narrating Black life,  belonging and the afterlives of transatlantic enslavement.  Furthermore, this panel will address the deep relationship between hip hop, spirituality, and alternative Black religions. How has Hip Hop shaped and nurtured discourses on Black religious diversity? What role has Hip Hop played in creating the narrative capacity for varied groups to imagine worlds otherwise, culturally, theologically, and politically? How might the study and teaching of religion more fully engage the contributions and insights of Hip Hop and its far reaching impact on our culture? Join us as we explore these and other critical questions at the intersection of Hip Hop, the study of religion, and cultural production.

Host: Joseph L. Tucker Edmonds

Joseph L. Tucker Edmonds is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies and Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University Indianapolis. His research interests are black and womanist theologies, alternative Christianities in the black Atlantic, and the role of scripture in African and African American religious traditions. Joseph has received grants from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning, the Fund for Theological Education, and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. His most recent scholarship has focused on the relationship between alternative Christian movements and the Black body with a recent article entitled “The Canonical Black Body: Alternative African American Religions and the Disruptive Politics of Sacrality” in the journal Religions. In addition to his focus on African and African American Christian traditions, Tucker Edmonds is a noted teacher and an engaged scholar. He serves as the president of the local Indianapolis branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), is a member of the editorial board of the Wabash Center’s Journal on Teaching, and is currently leading a community-engaged project that is studying the impact of COVID-19 on Black arts and cultural institutions in Indianapolis.

Joseph's full bio

Panelist: Erika D. Gault

Dr. Erika Gault is Director of the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian and Associate Professor of Africana Studies at The University of Arizona. Erika Gault’s scholarly work focuses on the intersection of religious history, technology, and urban black life in post-industrial America.On the topic of hip hop, religion, and digital ethnography she has delivered and published a number of papers regionally, nationally, and internationally. She is an ordained elder at Elim Christian Fellowship and an award winning slam poet. She is currently working on her first book project titled No Matter What They Think of Me: Black Millenials, Hip Hop and the New Black Church and a co-edited volume entitled You Gon’ Learn Today: The Aesthetics of Christians in Hip Hop.

Erika's full bio

Panelist: Darrius Hills

Darrius D. Hills is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Grinnell College.  He received his M.Div. from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, and his M.A. and Ph.D in Religion (concentration in African American Religion) from Rice University. His research interests privilege African American religious thought, liberation theologies, womanist religious thought, Black male studies, and religion and culture. Dr. Hills’ course offerings will largely address the intersections of religion, race, and gender in American culture. Currently, Dr. Hills is completing his first book, tentatively titled: Religion, Race, and Manhood: Black Religious Thought and Black Male Identity, which is under contract with New York University PressDr. Hills’ essays, reviews, and other writings can be found in journals such as American Religionthe Journal of Africana Religions, and Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. Most recently, Dr. Hills was selected one of ten junior religion scholars nation-wide as part of the 2020-2022 cohort of the prestigious Young Scholars in American Religion program. 

Darrius' full bio

Panelist: Andre E. Johnson

Andre E. Johnson, Ph.D. is Professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies in the Department of Communication and Film and holds a University Research Professorship at the University of Memphis. He is also the Andrew Mellon Just Transformation Fellow at the Center for Black Digital Research at Penn State University, National Research Fellow for the Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture, and Visiting Scholar at Memphis Theological Seminary. Grounded in an interdisciplinary understanding of scholarship, Dr. Johnson studies the intersection of rhetoric, race, and religion. He teaches classes in African American public address, rhetorical criticism, religious communication, prophetic rhetoric, homiletics, and the rhetoric of social movements. Dr. Johnson is the author of three national award-winning books, The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition (2012), The Struggle Over Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter (with Amanda Nell Edgar, Ph.D., 2018), and No Future in this Country: The Prophetic Pessimism of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner (2020). He is also the editor of the forthcoming The Speeches of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner: The Press, the Platform, and the Pulpit (2023) and Preaching During a Pandemic: The Rhetoric of the Black Preaching Tradition (with Kimberly P. Johnson, Ph.D. and Wallis C. Baxter IV, Ph.D., 2023).

Andre's full bio

This event took place on December 7, 2023.

Additional Resources

Religion and hip hop Teaching Resources

“Religion &”: Center Conversations on the State of Religion and the Current Moment

“Religion &” is a series of monthly conversations between leading academics and thinkers in multiple fields hosted by the Center to continue these critically important interventions.  Every Third Thursday at 3p ET we discuss a topic that looks at the relationship between religion, the pressing issues of our day, and their impact on the fields we study.

Previous episodes of “Religion &” can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

A JOURNAL OF INTERPRETATION: This semiannual publication explores the interplay between religion and other spheres of American culture.

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