October 24, 2019
WASHINGTON – The Howard University School of Divinity (HUSD), in partnership with the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), has awarded postdoctoral fellowships to Michael R. Fisher, Ph.D., and Diana A. Burnett, Ph.D., to study black religion and culture for the 2019-20 academic year. Burnett and Fisher will host public talks at NMAAHC later this Fall followed by public talks at the Howard University School of Divinity in Spring 2020.
“The Howard University School of Divinity is thrilled to partner with the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the National Museum of African American History and Culture,” says HUSD Dean Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D. “We look forward to welcoming Dr. Fisher and Dr. Burnett into the Howard community as postdoctoral scholars. They are both working on groundbreaking interdisciplinary research projects, where ethnography, history, theology, and religious studies are the core disciplines. Their work epitomizes the best of what a Divinity School offers: an opportunity to do high-level academic research with a grounding in theological studies.”
Michael Fisher, Ph.D. (pictured) is a two-time alumnus of Howard University and a faculty member of Wesley Theological Seminary where he serves as the visiting assistant professor of Religion and Society. He specializes in urban redevelopment, the study of black religion, ethics and public policy, race and socio-economic inequality, and religion in public life. His fellowship research will strengthen his new book in development, tentatively titled, Urban Exiles: Economic Development and Black Displacement in U.S. Cities.
“The postdoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, in partnership with Howard University, provides valuable access to the Mooreland-Spingarn Research Center and to the resources of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, as well as the Smithsonian writ large, for the purpose of archival research and funding for travel to speak with policymakers, developers, and activists across the country,” says Fisher. “I am especially excited by the opportunity to engage a world-class community of scholars across the fields of black studies, religion, and urban studies both at Howard and the Smithsonian.”
His current research examines economic development in 21st century U.S. cities through urban revitalization initiatives and their impact on vulnerable black communities. He will provide an analysis of the cultural logic that undergirds urban revitalization and considers viable solutions in the context of two case studies on Washington, D.C. and Nashville, Tenn.
Diana A. Burnett, Ph.D. (not pictured) is a researcher who examines identity formation processes that highlight religious belief and spiritual practice. Her current work interrogates how the Hebrew Israelites – a transnational, spiritual community– develop and implement their own health policies to prevent and reduce non-communicable disease (e.g. obesity, diabetes, and hypertension) risk.
During her tenure as a fellow, Burnett will work on her book manuscript, Migrant Indigeneity, an ethnography that takes seriously Hebrew Israelites’ claims of indigeneity while balancing the constriction of the category of “blackness” drawn from settler colonial frameworks. Through this work, Burnett will offer a decolonial and reterritorialized vision of indigeneity that is not tethered to Eurocentric spatial and temporal markers to construct identity. Burnett argues for the body and spiritual practice as safer grounds for theorizing indigeneity. Through the re-imaginings of self, community, and world that the Hebrew Israelites enact, Burnett’s research demonstrates their global possibilities for chronic disease prevention, health promotion, and socio-cultural well-being.
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(Featured photo: Michael Fisher, Jr., Ph.D. – courtesy of Michael Fisher, Jr., Ph.D.)