Merinda Simmons

Merinda Simmons


Office Hours

By appointment

Research Groups

Culture on the Edge


  • PhD, English, The University of Alabama


Merinda Simmons has a PhD 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.

Dr. Simmons is a member of the department’s executive and graduate committees and chair of the scholarship committee.

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).

Learn More

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

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

  • Race and New Modernisms. Co-authored with James A. Crank. Sept. 2019. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Changing the Subject: Writing Women across the African Diaspora. July 2014. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press
Edited Book Series