Brendan Jamal Thornton

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Brendan Jamal Thornton

Associate Professor


Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 2011 (Anthropology)

Research Interests

  • Caribbean and Latin America
  • Anthropology of Christianity
  • Religions of the African Diaspora / Black Atlantic
  • Comparative Caribbean Ethnology
  • Gender and Masculinity

Professional Biography

My ongoing ethnographic research in the Caribbean explores the intersections of religion, culture, and identity. Guided by theoretical concerns from gender and power to race and religious difference and grounded in a firm commitment to ethnographic methodology and anthropological inquiry, my work addresses contemporary issues related to gender performance and identity, spiritual authority and legitimacy, and religious heterodoxy and pluralism. Though trained as an anthropologist, my research and publishing are interdisciplinary in scope crosscutting anthropology, religious studies, women and gender studies, and Latin American and Caribbean studies.

My current research trains an analytic lens on Spiritual Baptist Christians—an important but understudied Afro-Caribbean religious tradition in Trinidad and Tobago—and tackles an enduring problem in Caribbean ethnology: the puzzling relationship between heterogeneity and power. In addition to engaging important and enduring disciplinary concerns about religious and cultural difference, this project situates itself within existing scholarship on creolization, religion in the African diaspora, identity politics, and the anthropology of Christianity.

Courses Recently Taught

  • RELI 140        Religion in America
  • RELI 141        African American Religions
  • RELI 246        Supernatural Encounters: Zombies, Vampires,
    ….._……………….Demons and the Occult in the Americas
  • RELI 247        Uncertain Truths: Conspiracy Theories, Aliens,
    ….._……………….and Secret Societies in America
  • RELI 322        Theories of Religion
  • RELI 352        Anthropology of Christianity
  • RELI 427        Spirit Possession and Mediumship
  • RELI 526        Dimensions of Evil
  • RELI 700        Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
  • RELI 721        Christianity and Cultural Change

Publication Highlights


Negotiating Respect: Pentecostalism, Masculinity, and the Politics of Spiritual Authority in the Dominican Republic. Gainesville: University Press of Florida (2016).

Winner of the Barbara Christian Prize for BEST book in the Humanities

For reviews click here and here


(Forthcoming) “Refiguring Christianity and Black Atlantic Religion: Representation, Essentialism, and Christian Variation in the Southern Caribbean,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion.

Caribbean Exceptions: The Problem of Race and Nation in Dominican Studies,” with Diego Ubiera, Latin American Research Review 54(2): 413-428, 2019.

New Directions in the Anthropology of Religion and Gender: Faith and Emergent Masculinities,” with William Dawley, Anthropological Quarterly 91(1): 5-24, 2018.

Victims of Illicit Desire: Pentecostal Men of God and the Specter of Sexual Temptation,” Anthropological Quarterly 91(1): 133-172, 2018.

Ties that bind: Pentecostal churches, youth gangs, and the management of everyday life in the urban barrio,” Religion 48(4): 616-641, 2018.

Changing Landscapes of Faith: Latin American Religions in the Twenty-First Century,” in the Latin American Research Review 53(4): 857–862, 2018.

Book Chapters

(Forthcoming) “Mapping the Spiritual Baptist Universe: Black Atlantic Cosmography and the Spatiality of Spirit in Trinidad and Tobago,” in Oxford Handbook of Religious Space and Place, edited by Jeanne Halgren Kilde et al. New York: Oxford University Press.

(Forthcoming) “Conjugal Conundrums: Conversion and Marriage Delay in the Contemporary Caribbean,” in Waithood: Gender, Education, and Global Delays in Marriage, edited by Marcia Inhorn and Nancy Smith-Hefner. New York: Berghahn Books.

Residual Masculinity and the Cultivation of Negative-Charisma in a Caribbean Pentecostal Community,” in The Anthropology of Religious Charisma: Ecstasies and Institutions, edited by Charles Lindholm, pp. 117-143. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (2013).