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.”

Publications

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

Education

  • 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

Contact

Phone:
  • (802) 656-9301
Office Location:

481 Main Street, Room 101

Office Hours:

Wed 10-12 and by appointment

Website(s):
  1. Twitter

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