Todne Thomas, an anthropologist who specializes in religion, race, and kinship, has been named assistant professor of African American religions at Harvard Divinity School (HDS) and a Suzanne Young Murray Assistant Professor at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, effective July 1.
Thomas is currently an assistant professor of religion at the University of Vermont, a position she has held since 2013. She has a PhD in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Virginia.
“I am very excited to join the Harvard community,” said Thomas. “The dynamic scholarship and social engagements undertaken by HDS faculty and students are genuinely inspiring and create a rich catalytic environment for research and teaching that I am eager to enter. I look forward to translating my interests in religion, race, sacred sociality, and space into conversations that can enhance the intellectual culture of HDS, the multidisciplinary Radcliffe community, and the University writ large.”
Thomas’s current book project—based on extensive ethnographic work in Atlanta, Georgia—attempts to show how both traditionally African American and more recent Afro-Caribbean immigrant churches appeal to (or obscure) the interwoven nature of race and kinship to navigate racial discrimination.
“In Todne Thomas we discovered an incredible anthropologist of religion,” said Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church Jonathan Walton, who chaired the faculty search committee. “Her research is as expansive as it is innovative, theoretically sophisticated as it is vital to broader conversations in our society. Her work among evangelical churches in the southern United States will help expand narratives that too often focus on the political activity of white conservative Protestants on the one hand or homogeneous accounts of black churches on the other. With keen historical and theological lenses, Professor Thomas's ethnographic accounts reveal the gendered, racialized, and neoliberal logics that inform evangelical encounters on the world stage. I am thus thrilled to say that with her addition to the community, the faculty and curriculum at HDS just got exponentially better.”
Thomas earned a master’s degree in socicultural anthropology from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Africana studies from Cornell University. She has authored several articles that have appeared in peer-reviewed publications, including Anthropology and Humanism, the Journal of African American Studies, and the Journal of Africana Religions.
“It goes beyond saying that I am absolutely delighted with the outcome of the faculty search,” said HDS Dean David N. Hempton. “Todne Thomas impressed faculty members and the search committee with her theoretical sophistication and methodological clarity. We look forward to her joining our faculty later this year.”
As a Suzanne Young Murray Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute, Thomas will spend a year during her first three years at the University as a fellow at the Institute with 50 scholars, scientists, and artists pursuing innovative work across disciplinary boundaries. The Radcliffe Professorship Program helps recruit pioneering scholars to the Harvard faculty by providing time and resources to pursue new work.
“We are pleased that a fellowship at the Institute was instrumental in bringing Todne Thomas to Harvard. Her year at Radcliffe will provide an opportunity for her to advance her scholarship about Caribbean and American religions in a dynamic intellectual community of diverse scholars who will surely inspire and challenge her in exciting new ways,” said Radcliffe Institute Dean Lizabeth Cohen, who is also the Howard Mumford Jones Professor of American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Dean Hempton added: “As dean, I also want to express my appreciation to Dean Liz Cohen and the Radcliffe Institute for granting Dr. Thomas a prestigious affiliation with the Institute.”