In partnership with the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), Dr. Diana A. Burnett and Dr. Michael R. Fisher will serve as postdoctoral fellows in Black Religion and Culture during the 2019-20 academic year.
Dr. Diana A. Burnett 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 Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow, Dr. 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 deterritorialized vision of indigeneity that is not tethered to Eurocentric spatial and temporal markers to construct identity. Dr. 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.
Dr. Michael Fisher is a member of the faculty 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. The fellowship research will underpin a new book in development by Dr. Fisher, tentatively titled Urban Exiles: Economic Development and Black Displacement in U.S. Cities.” Fisher says: “I will be looking at redevelopment in poor black areas under the doctrine of ‘Creative Destruction,’ first identified by Joseph Schumpeter, an economic theory that talks about the evolutionary character of capitalism.” Fisher posits, “This doctrine, when applied to areas such urban redevelopment, can have a particular impact, particularly when applied to real estate redevelopment, often means destroying the old to bring about the new.”
HUSD will serve as the fellows’ residential home for the year. Both Dr. Burnett and Dr. Fisher will host public talks at NMAAHC and at the Howard University School of Divinity.