Chair and Professor of Africana Studies and Faculty Affiliate in Anthropology and Sociology and Religion
Ph.D. Brown University (2002)
James Manigault-Bryant studies religious phenomena, particularly those that emerge from the experience of being African-American. Exploring expressions of religion, and the numerous cultural forms they take, has led him to two concerns that cut across the fields of Africana Studies and Sociology. First, our unfolding understanding of the American social unconscious—or the invisible terms of sociality—as derived from interpretations of Protestant Christian theology; second, the critical insights into this unconscious found in sacred and secular narratives of African-American life.
Manigault-Bryant is now working on two projects that derive from these concerns. The first, Signs of Damascus Road: The Call in the African-American Ministerial Imagination, is a cultural study of African-American ministers’ knowledge production and imaginations of American society. An elaboration of concerns first posed in his dissertation, the study illuminates processes of secularization that affect the lived experience of African-American ministry. The second project, On Black Metaphysics, is a book-length proposal for a metaphysic of society. Using the work of a number of scholars in Africana Studies—notably Howard Thurman, Charles Long, and Hortense Spillers—the proposal uses African-American religious thought to reimagine our lived terms of sociality.
Before arriving at Williams, Manigault-Bryant earned his BA from Tulane University and MA and PhD from Brown University. He has taught courses on race and religion at College of the Holy Cross and Wake Forest University, has been a visiting scholar at Morehouse College and the University of Virginia, and has received generous research support from the Ford Foundation and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.