Ennis B. Edmonds came to Kenyon College in the fall of 2003. Formerly, he taught in Sociology and Pan African Studies and directed the Pan African Studies Program at Barnard College, Columbia University. His areas of expertise are African Diaspora Religions, Religion in America, and Sociology of Religion. His research and publication have focused primarily on Rastafari, but also on other religious traditions in the Caribbean. Current research interests include the conversion of Rastas to Evangelical Christianity, the Jamaican religious group called Revival Zion, and religion in Afro-Caribbean and African American popular culture and literature.
African diaspora religions, religion in America, sociology of religion, and Caribbean society and culture.
1993 — Doctor of Philosophy from Drew University
1983 — Master of Arts from Western Evangelical, Jamaica
1981 — Bachelor of Arts from Jamaica Theological Seminary
The format of this course is lecture and discussion. The usual enrollment in each section is twenty to twenty-five students. The course includes brief introductions to four or five major religious traditions, while exploring concepts and categories used in the study of religion, such as sacredness, myth, ritual, religious experience, and social dimensions of religion. Traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Native American traditions are presented through their classic scriptures and traditional practices. Readings vary among sections, but typically include important primary sources on Hindu thought and practice (e.g., the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-gita), Buddhist thought and practice (The Questions of King Milinda, The Heart Sutra), Jewish life and thought (selections from the Hebrew Bible, The Sayings of the Fathers), Christian origins (one or more Gospels, selected Pauline letters), Islam (selections from the Qur'an and Sufi mystical poetry), Confucianism (the Analects), Taoism (the Tao Te Ching), and modern expressions of religion (e.g., Martin Buber's I and Thou). Many of the primary sources are studied in conjunction with relevant secondary sources (e.g., Rudolf Otto's The Idea of the Holy, important articles by anthropologists of religion). The Department of Religious Studies emphasizes writing, and several essays are assigned in this course. The course is open to all students. Offered fall and spring.
This course aims at an in-depth exploration of controversial issues that marked turning points in Western religious history--issues that resulted in trials and/or significant national debates. Each offering of the course will engage some combination of the following: the trial of Galileo, the English Reformation, the trial of Anne Hutchinson in Puritan New England, the abolition debate leading up to the American Civil War, and contemporary controversies over abortion and same-sex marriage. (Other trials, debates, or controversies may be introduced from time to time.) The course is built upon the pedagogical approach called "Reacting to the Past," developed by Barnard College history professor Mark Carnes. Students are divided into at least two competing factions as well as a group of indeterminates (or persuadables). Each student is assigned a role based on a historical person or a composite of ideas that informed the particular issue. Students will assume, research, and reenact the roles of the various participants in these controversies. The goal is to persuade others, especially the indeterminates, to vote for the outcome that ones role specifies.
This course explores the religious history of the United States, with an emphasis on the relationship between religious beliefs/values and broader social and political processes. Section one examines the attempt of European immigrants to establish church-state compacts in New England and Virginia, while the middle colonies adopted a more pluralistic approach. Section two surveys the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War, looking at the separation of church and state, the growth of religious pluralism, and the continued existence of the "Peculiar Institution." Section three looks at how various social forces shaped religion in the United States from the Civil War to World War II: immigration, urbanization, prejudice, and the Social Gospel; expansionism and missions; and modernism and fundamentalism. Section four examines the shaping of the American religious landscape from World War II to the present through such forces as religious revitalization, activism for personal and civil rights, new waves of immigration, and new communication media. Offered fall semester every other year.
This course explores the contours of the religious expressions that people of African descent have forged in the Caribbean. It will examine the context of domination and resistance in which African spirituality was forged, give a brief overview of African influence on religious expressions in the Americas, and explore the religious traditions of Vodou, Santeria, and Rastafari, paying close attention to their social history, their understanding of the universe, their social structure, and their rituals and ceremonies. Offered fall semester every year.
This course explores the contours of the religious expressions of the African Diaspora in the Americas. It will survey various Orisha traditions in Cuba, Brazil, the United States, and Trinidad and Tobago; Regla de Palo and Abakua in Cuba; Kumina in Jamaica; Vodou in Haiti and the United States; Afro-Christians Traditions in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana; and Rastafari in Jamaica and beyond. The course will pay close attention to the social history of these traditions, their understanding of universe, their social structure, and their rituals and ceremonies. The aim of this course is to provide students with an understanding of the formation and history, the major beliefs and ceremonies, the leadership and community structure, and the social and cultural significance of these religious traditions.
This course seeks to combine a survey of the history of African-American religious experiences with an exploration of various themes emerging from that history. Special attention will fall on the social forces shaping such experiences; the influence of African-American religious commitments on their cultural, social, and political activities; and the diversity of religious experiences and expressions among African-Americans. The survey will encompass African religious heritage and its relevance in America; the religious life of slaves on the plantations and rise of independent African-American churches in both the North and the South; the role of African-American churches during the reconstruction and Jim Crow; the emergence of diverse African-American religious traditions and movements in the first half of the Twentieth Century; African-American religion in the Civil Rights era; and current trends and issues in African-American religion and spirituality. Some of the themes that will occupy our attention include religion and resistance; religion and cultural formation; African-American Christian missions; the Back to African Movement; the aesthetics of worship in African-American churches; class, gender and social mobility; and religion and political activism. We will employ a combination of primary and secondary readings along with audio-visual materials in exploring the development of and the issues in African American religious experiences. Offered fall semester every other year.\n
Religious spaces, ideas, and practices have exerted a formative influence on the cultures of the people of African descent in the Americas. Nowhere is this more evident than in the musical traditions of the African Diaspora. This course will examine the relationship between African Diaspora religious expressions and popular music in the United States and the Caribbean. It will focus primarily on the African-American (U.S.) musical traditions, rara from Haiti, calypso from Trinidad and Tobago, and reggae from Jamaica. Special attention will be given to the religious roots of these musical expressions and their social functions in shaping identity and framing religious, cultural, and political discourses. Readings, videos/dvds, and CDs, along with presentations and discussions, will assist us in the exploration of the various facets of our topic. Offered spring semester every other year.
This course aims at an in-depth exploration of controversial issues in U.S. religious history--issues that resulted in trials and/or significant national debates, for example, the antinomian controversy and the trial of Anne Hutchinson, the Salem witch hunt, the Quaker Invasion, slavery and abolition, social gospel, Jim Crow and civil rights, and abortion and same-sex marriage. Each offering of the course will explore two or three such issues, utilizing role playing or more specifically the pedagogical approach called "Reacting to the Past," developed by Barnard College History Professor, Mark Carnes. Students will assume, research, and reenact the roles of the various participants in these controversies. Not offered every year.
Prerequisite: permission of department.
Prerequisite: permission of department.
Rastafari: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, Forthcoming.
Caribbean Religious History: An Introduction (Michelle Gonzalez). New York University Press, 2010.
Rastafari: From Outcasts to Culture Bearers, Oxford University Press, 2003.
"Rastafari." In International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Macmillan, 2007
"Rastafari: A Marginalized People." In African Folklore: An Encyclopedia, edited by Philip M. Peek and Kwesi Yankah. New York: Routledge, 2004.
"Dread 'I' In-a-Babylon: Ideological Resistance and Cultural Revitalization," and "The Structure and Ethos of Rastafari,"Chanting Down Babylon: The Rastafari Reader, edited by Nathaniel S. Murrell, et al., Temple University Press, 1998.