Merinda Simmons

Member, Executive Committee|
Member, Graduate Committee|
Chair, Scholarships Committee

Office Hours

By appointment

Research Groups

Culture on the Edge


Merinda Simmons has a Ph.D. in English and is a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies.

Her areas of emphasis include gender studies and queer theory, southern studies, method and theory in the study of religion, postcolonial studies, Afro-Caribbean and African American literature and theory, migration and diaspora studies.

Her current research examines “slave religion,” a category scholars popularized only as recently as the late 1960/early 70s and which many still use to describe antebellum myths and rituals prevalent in slave communities. Several key concepts upon which slave religion discourse relies—including “religion,” “the South,” “the Atlantic,” and “race”—are relatively recent rhetorical phenomena. Their uses prior to the 18th centuries are quite far removed from 20th and 21st-century deployments (scholarly or otherwise). When taken together, their discursive histories begin to tell an interesting story about Black Studies in 20th-century academia, while complicating quests for origins in circum-Atlantic contexts along the way.

Grounded in archival and queer theories, as well as critical improvisation studies, Sourcing Slave Religion is an intervention in the contemporary scholarship on race and religion by way of “discourse diaspora,” a methodological approach that rejects recuperation as a scholarly aim and instead argues for finding theoretical possibility in the unsalvageable and the irretrievable.

Current Projects

Dr. Simmons is currently at work on her second monograph, tentatively entitled Sourcing Slave Religion: Theorizing Experience in the Archive. The project historicizes the terms needed in order to deploy the concept of “slave religion,” along with the politics and theoretical apparatuses operative in those deployments.

She is also writing the co-authored (with Craig Martin, St. Thomas Aquinas College) book, Gender: A Critical Primer (contracted with Equinox Publishing).

ar·ti·facts: A Memento of Departments Past with Prof. Merinda Simmons from UA Religious Studies on Vimeo.

Learn more about Prof. Simmons

See her other ar·ti·facts episode.

Check out her A Good Book episode.

What’s the Backstory on Prof. Simmons…?

Courses Taught

REL 100 Introduction to Religious Studies
REL 105 Honors Introduction to Religious Studies
REL 124 Religion, Media, The South
REL 226 African Diaspora Religions
REL 234 Identifying Gender in Religion
REL 237 Self, Society, & Religion
REL 415 Religion in the American South
REL 430 Religion and Literature
REL 419 Slave Religion in the United States
REL 480 Gender Theory and Religion
REL 501 Social Theory Foundations
REL 590 Graduate Capstone Seminar

Selected Publications


Changing the Subject cover

Co-Edited Books

The Trouble with Post-Blackness cover

Race and Displacement cover

Edited Book Series

Concepts in the Study of Religion: Critical Primers