Professor Brennan writes and teaches about questions of sound, materiality, ethics, and religion in Africa and the African Diaspora. In her research, she uses ethnographic methods and theories to study the daily life, ritual practices, and modes of communication created by religious practitioners. Professor Brennan is especially interested in how members of religious communities evoke feelings of connectedness and articulate their commitments to shared values through the use of a variety of aesthetic forms, including musical performances, dance, and visual modes of representation. Her research is based on more than fifteen years of field research in southwest Nigeria, primarily in Lagos and Ibadan. She has also conducted research with Nigerian immigrant and African American communities in the United States.
Professor Brennan’s first book, Singing Yoruba Christianity (Indiana UP, 2018), examines how members of the Cherubim and Seraphim Church Movement in Lagos, Nigeria use music, dance, and other material forms as a means of producing moral community and reinforcing ethical values and modes of self-making. Her research has also been published in American Ethnologist, the Journal of Religion in Africa, and the Journal of Popular Music Studies. Brennan is working on a new project that investigates how claims to urban space by members of religious communities in Lagos, Nigeria are produced, circulated, experienced, and contested through sound. She is also working on an ethnographic biography of a Nigerian-American visual artist.
“As an anthropologist, I am especially interested in the ways in which religion articulates cultural ideas and enables practices of sociality. In my research, I focus on aesthetic media—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 materially, and learned through means of embodiment. In my classes, I challenge students to reexamine their assumptions about the category of religion through the use of ethnographic studies in combination with music, film, art, and other media.”