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Vanderbilt University Divinity School Announces the 2023 Mafoi Carlisle Bogitsh Lecture

to be delivered by

Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh
Assistant Professor of African American Religious History
Religious Studies Department
Stanford University



Thursday, March 2, 2023 

7:00 pm CT

Vanderbilt Divinity School

The Space

More than a “Slave:” Enslaved Women, Religion, and New Histories of Black Humanity

Since the inception of the system that displaced and colonized humans in one locale for the production of goods within a global economy, the term “slave” has been deployed to describe the persons whose physical, intellectual, and reproductive resources supported the dawn of modernity. Though the discursive treatment of the persons bearing the designation has changed over time, the residue of its ontological significance persists. Enslaved persons continue to appear in scholarly and popular literature as undifferentiated bodies who largely resided on the periphery of historical processes until their emancipation catapulted them into the role of actors. The omissions effectively render the enslaved inanimate and authorize manipulations of the image of the “slave” towards varied historical, sociopolitical, and cultural purposes. Taking the lives of enslaved woman-gendered people as its starting point, this talk theorizes how studying the intersections of race, gender, and religion in slavery invites new approaches to the study of racialized humanity in the Americas. How can studying practices, strivings, and other manifestations of interiority here subsumed under the category of religion invite new ways of narrating Black humanity across space and time? More importantly, to what extent can concepts indigenous to the academy—concepts like methodology—extend beyond their scholarly contexts to challenge anti-Blackness?

About the Speaker

Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh is an Assistant Professor in the Religious Studies department at Stanford University. Her first book The Souls of Womenfolk: The Religious Cultures of Enslaved Women in the Lower South (UNC Press, 2021) won the 2023 Outstanding First Book Prize from the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) and was a finalist for the 2022 Frederick Douglass Book Prize. She is currently at work on a second monograph that traces the gendered, racialized history of phenomena termed “witchcraft” in the United States, as well as a two-volume documentary history of religion and slavery. Her work has been supported by the Ford Foundation, Mellon Foundation, and Forum for Theological Education, among others. She received her B.A. in English from Spelman College, and Master of Divinity degree and Ph.D. from Emory University.

About the Bogitsh Lecture

The Mafoi Carlisle Bogitsh Memorial Lecture was established by a gift from Professor Emeritus Burton Bogitsh and his family in honor of Mafoi Carlisle Bogitsh. Mafoi Carlisle Bogitsh grew up as a Baptist in a small farming community in west Texas, where her mother Una Hooper Carlisle, taught her the principleof religious tolerance.  Mafoi studied comparative religion at Baylor University and cultivated a profound interest invarious world religions and the cultures from which they arose.  This interest grew when she married Burton, a man of Jewish heritage, and both involved themselves with the Unitarian tradition.  It was within the religious philosophy of Unitarianism that Mafoi cultivated a deep understanding of the effect that cultural diversity has on religious beliefs.  Through travel and exploration, Mafoi and Burton were privileged to learn about Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam intheir native environs.  The Mafoi Carlisle Bogitsh Memorial Lecture honors Mafoi’s lifelong interest in the interplay between culture and religious expression.