Matthew Harris has joined us at The Divinity School as Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow of Religions in the Americas (effective July 1, 2022). He studies African American Religious History, American Religion, Popular Culture and Religion, Black Studies, and Black Radical Tradition.
What are you most looking forward to about life in Chicago?
I’m excited to relocate to a city that is home to important historical and contemporary social movements, possesses a rich musical culture, and where, hopefully, I use my car a lot less. But I’m also happy that I don’t have to wake up quite as early on Saturdays and Sundays to watch the English Premier League.
What are you most looking forward to about joining us at the Divinity School?
Just about everything really. I look forward to talking with other faculty members and learning more about their research interests. I’m looking forward to hearing about what kinds of exciting projects graduate students are working on. And I’m looking forward to being a part of a community that has immensely shaped the critical study of religion and to thinking with all interested parties about what that looks like going forward.
How did you come to do the work you do? What do you like about it?
On the good advice of a mentor, I applied for some research money very early on in the conceptualization of my project. With the money received, I decided to visit the collection of Sun Ra materials held in the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago Library. The archive completely changed my trajectory. What was initially a project about the relationship between cultural forms and radicalism, became a religious history of Sun Ra, who is one of the icons of the Black Radical Tradition. It’s a very fun project, one that takes me into odd corners of Black religious history, the historiography of radical traditions, and raises questions about theory and method in the study of religion.
When you’re not studying religion, what do you do for fun?
I haven’t been able to do it much lately, but one of the things I love most is attending concerts and discovering new music. I look forward to finding my way through Chicago’s music scene.
Opinions on Chicago-style pizza?
I hold no opinions, but I’m willing to be convinced that I should have one. I’m open to any and all invitations from experts in the field and anyone who would like to get to know me and sway my opinion one way or another should feel free to reach out.