Associate Professor, Director of African Studies Program

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.”


2018. Singing Yoruba Christianity: Music, Media, and Morality. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


2014. Senwele Jesu: Gospel Music and Religious Publics in Nigeria. New Media and Religious Transformations in Africa, Rosalind Hackett and Benjamin Soares, eds., Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 227-244.


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.


1999. “Chamber Music in the Barn: Tourism, Nostalgia and the Reproduction of Social Class” in The World of Music 41(3): 11-29.

Associations and Affiliations

African Studies Association

American Academy of Religion

American Anthropological Association

Vicki Brennan in her office in 481 Main Street

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

  • Africa (Nigeria, Yoruba) & African Diaspora
  • Music, Sound, and Performance
  • Religion, Media, & Materiality 
  • 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:

Old Mill Annex, Room A502

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Courses Taught

REL 1990 Drugs, Demons and Dancing An interdisciplinary examination of the mind-body problem offering perspectives from anthropology, dance, neuroscience,performance studies, psychology, and religion. Explores relationships between mind, brain, body, and behavior, asking how the senses, the body, and consciousness interact in order to shape our knowledge of ourselves and the world.

REL 1650 Religion, Health and Healing Comparative and cross-cultural exploration

REL 2050 - Interpretation of Religion Examination of major theories and methods used in studying and interpreting religious phenomena. Credits: 3.0

REL 2654 - Sacred Sounds This course examines the sonic aspects of religious life, paying particular attention to musical phenomena. Credits: 3.0

REL 2652 - Mysticism and Shamanism Comparative study of ways in which the inward dimension of religious life finds expression. Credits: 3.0