Associate Professor, Director of African Studies Program

Professor Brennan is a specialist on religions in Africa. She received her B.A. in Music from Syracuse University, her M.A. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Washington, and her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the relationships between music, religion, and politics in contemporary Nigeria. She is currently working on a book project that details how Yoruba Christians use music to produce forms of community and identity that work to articulate and mediate religious values in relation to political-economic changes in Nigeria since 1999. She also has begun research on the relationships between commercially recorded gospel music, new media technologies, and religious publics in Nigeria.

“As an anthropologist I am especially interested in the ways in which religion constructs ideas of the social and enables practices of sociality. In my research I focus on expressive culture—such as music, dance, poetry, and visual art—in order to understand how ideas of morality, ethics and spirituality are made real in performance, represented aesthetically, and learned through means of embodiment. In my classes I challenge students to reexamine their assumptions about African peoples and African religions through the use of ethnographic studies in combination with music, film, art, and other media.”


2013. "Up Above the River Jordan": Hymns and Historical Consciousness in the Cherubim and Seraphim Churches of Nigeria. Studies in World Christianity 19 (1): 31-49

2012. Take Control: The Labor of Immediacy in Yoruba Christian Music. Journal of Popular Music Studies 24 (4): 411-429.

2012. “Truly we have a good heritage”: Musical Mediations in a Yoruba Christian Diaspora. Journal of Religion in Africa 42 (1): 3-25.

2010. Mediating “The Voice of the Spirit”: Musical and Religious Transformations in Nigeria’s Oil Boom. American Ethnologist 37 (2): 354-370.

Associations and Affiliations

African Studies Associaiton

American Academy of Religion

American Anthropological Assocation

American Ethnological Society

Society for Cultural Anthropology

Society for Ethnomusicology

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

  • Africa (Nigeria, Yoruba)
  • Music, ritual, and performance
  • Religion and media
  • Anthropology of religion


  • Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of Chicago
  • M.A. in Music (Ethnomusicology), University of Washington
  • B.A. in Music, cum laude, with honors, Syracuse University


  • (802) 656-9301
Office Location:

481 Main Street, Room 101

Office Hours:

Wednesday 2:00-4:00pm and by appointment

Courses Taught

REL 026 - D2: Religions in Africa Introduction to the study of religion with an emphasis on African religious beliefs, practices and experiences. Credits: 3.0

REL 100 - Interpretation of Religion Examination of major theories and methods used in studying and interpreting religious phenomena. Credits: 3.0

REL 103 - Sacred Sounds This course examines the sonic aspects of religious life, paying particular attention to musical phenomena. Credits: 3.0

REL 104 - Mysticism, Shamanism, and Possession Comparative study of ways in which the inward dimension of religious life finds expression. Credits: 3.0

REL 163 - D2: Women & Religion in Africa This course examines the relationships between women and religious institutions, practices, and communities in a variety of settings in sub-Saharan Africa. Credits: 3.0