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Monica R. Miller 

Visiting Assistant Professor for Religious Studies

30991338225Dr. Monica R. Miller teaches courses in African-American Religion & Popular Culture, African-American Religious History, Youth, Culture and the Construction of Meaning, Hip Hop & Religion, and Anxious Identities and the Remaking of Religion in Postmodernity. More generally, Miller’s area of research includes the study of religion, popular culture, youth subcultures, and various dimensions of material culture. Miller’s research also pays particular attention to theory and method in the study of religion and examines the uses, effects, rhetoric, constructions, deployments, and practices of religion and constructions of meaning across various mediums of material culture specific to socially marginalized populations. This includes attention to cultural practices that often go unnoticed due to social stigma and stratification as a way to examine shifting conceptions and uses of the religious among marginalized groups. Serious attention to marginalized cultural mediums assists in charting the manner in which religiosity shifts across spectrums of social differences. Miller’s work is grounded in theoretical and methodological diversity and informed by critical approaches to the academic study of religion. Questions that guide Miller’s current research include: What do uses of religion (understood as both discourse and human activity) in material culture accomplish for competing social and cultural interests? How does the inheritance of social difference affect the embodiment, performativity, practices, and uses of religion across gendered, raced, sexed, and classed divisions? What types of cultural logics (habitus) are present in material culture, and what do these say about the religious?  What counts as “religious” data in empirical research, and what theories and taxonomies of religion are necessary for changing cultural and social economies? More generally, Miller’s research is concerned with how scholars of religion study “religion” in culture, what types of data are used, privileged, and ignored for such explorations, and how sustained analyses of such uses can contribute to theory and method in the academic study of religion.

Miller is also interested in the mediation of social group differences (race, gender, sexuality, and class) on the practice, inheritance, and performativity of religiosity. Under this program of research, Miller is interested in examining the role of religion within processes of social stratification and marginalization, particularly among Latino and African-American populations. Miller approaches this area of research with methodological diversity, utilizing social scientific methods, alongside of theory within and outside of religious studies. The demographic related to this area of research includes GLBTQ youth and youth of color more generally.

Currently, Miller has a large scale survey project, Youth Culture and the Remaking of Religion in Portland, Oregon, looking at the role and weight of material cultural practices in youth culture. The findings of this project will culminate in a series of articles and be included in a larger manuscript project entitled Faith in the Flesh: Manufactured Zones of Insignificance. Additionally, Miller has a long term research project, Habana Libre? Youth Subcultures and Zones of (Im)Possibility in Cuba. In collaboration with Dr. Ezekiel Dixon-Román of the University of Pennsylvania, this ongoing research project examines zones of significance among various youth subcultures in Habana, Cuba. Much of the world assumes that Cuban youth culture is homogenous and the Cuban government has worked hard to protect that image. However, this project seeks to describe the variability of Cuban youth culture (mikkis, raperos, rastas, hemos, frikis, punks, etc.), the history/evolution of these cultures, their variability in thoughts and perceptions of society, the economy, education, health, and the Revolution. When possible, the in-depth interviews are being conducted on video camera which will be turned into a documentary on Cuban youth culture. This research project closely examines the manner in which tourism, familial social history and migration, fashion, education, gender & sexuality, among other variables, contributes toward the construction, maintenance, and practice of youth subcultural practices. Through a variety of qualitative methods, this project considers the emergence, resilience, and growth of youth culture as a way to understand more fully the changing socio-political landscape of Cuban society. In addition to charting change in the political dispositions of Cuban youth, this project is likewise interested in examining how everyday users, producers, and consumers of particular cultural forms use certain practices and acts as modes of political, cultural, and social expression.

Among numerous book chapters and articles, Miller’s most recent article (with Dr. Ezekiel Dixon-Román), “Habits of the Heart: Youth Religious Participation as Progress, Peril, or Change?” was featured in a special issue on Race, Religion, and Late Democracy of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (2011). Additionally, Miller is co-editor and contributor of a 2009 special issue of Culture & Religion Journal (Routledge) on Hip Hop & Religion. Miller’s first book, Religion and Hip Hop, is new book  with Routledge and she is currently working on two manuscripts on Hip Hop Culture and Religion with Dr. Anthony B. Pinn, one of which will be co-edited with rapper and Rice University Distinguished Lecturer, Bun B.

Miller is currently co-chair of a new American Academy of Religion (AAR) Group, Critical Approaches to Hip Hop and Religion, is a Senior Research Fellow with The Institute for Humanist Studies, and most recently is part of a two year international scholarly working group of nine scholars housed at The University of Alabama and spearheaded by Dr. Russell T. McCutcheon called Culture on the Edge.

In her spare time, Miller enjoys watching reality T.V., exploring coffee culture, and reading junk magazines.


Academic Credentials

Ph.D. Chicago Theological Seminary, 2010

M.T.S. Drew University, 2006

B.A. Fordham University, 2004

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