Judith Casselberry

Judith Casselberry

WSRP Research Associate 2012–13

Home institution

Bowdoin College

Research project

Justified by Works: Gender, Faith, and Power in Black Apostolic Pentecostalism

This ethnography integrates spiritual, material, social, and structural spheres of twenty-first century, metropolitan New York, black Apostolic women's work. It highlights the role of black women's labor in defining and sustaining personal faith, building churches and communities and faith, and navigating intra-racial and intergender power relations.

Judith Casselberry will remain at the WSRP for the fall of 2013 on a Ford Foundation grant.


HDS 2109: Black Women and Global Pentecostalism


Judith Casselberry is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Bowdoin College, teaching courses on African American women's religious history, music and spirituality in popular culture, music and social movements, and issues in Black intellectual thought. Her interest in African American religious and cultural studies, with particular attention to gender, guides her research agenda. Before her Bowdoin appointment, she was an inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow at Center for African American Studies at Princeton University (2008-09). She has held visiting appointments at Wesleyan University, Barnard College, Vassar College, and New York University. She received the bachelor of music from Berklee College of Music, MA from Wesleyan University, and PhD from Yale University (2008).

She is currently completing an ethnography entitled 'Justified by Works: Gender, Faith, and Power in Black Apostolic Pentecostalism,' which examines New York religious women's spiritual, material, social, and organizational work through the lens of black women's labor theories. Her most recent articles include 'Were We Ever Secular? Interrogating David Brown on Gospel, Blues, and Pop Music,' in Theology, Aesthetics, and Culture: Responses to the Work of David Brown, Robert MacSwain and Taylor Worley, editors, Oxford University Press (forthcoming) and 'The Politics of Righteousness: Race and Gender in Apostolic Pentecostalism,' in Transforming Anthropology: the Journal of Black Anthropologists (forthcoming). In addition to research on organized Pentecostalism, she is working on a project examining Grace Jones's transnational Pentecostal roots and their imprint on her performance aesthetics and identity.

Casselberry's interest in links between lettered and performed scholarship comes from her career as an academic and performer. As a vocalist/guitarist, she currently performs with Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely and has enjoyed a career as an international recording artist with Casselberry-DuPreé and JUCA. She has shared stages with Sweet Honey in the Rock, Odetta, Stevie Wonder, Etta James, and Elvis Costello among others. She served as production consultant for Radical Harmonies (Dee Mosbacher, director 2002), a documentary about the women's music cultural movement, and most recently as executive producer of The Amazon 35 Project (2010), a multimedia project documenting a political and cultural movement by women of color and their allies within a lesbian feminist cultural movement at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. In 2011, she brought this project to Harvard University as the keynote speaker at the Graduate Music Forum, Department of Music. She is currently consultant for the forthcoming documentary by Yoruba Richen, 'The New Black,' which uncovers the complicated relationships between African-American and LGBT civil rights movements and the black church and anti-gay Christian right wing.

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