Asha Noor
Roberto Sirvent

Mentoring Spotlight Part 1

Announcements, Mentoring Spotlight Feature

The Mentoring Initiative aims to bring together students and scholars engaged in different research methods but who are addressing a shared set of questions. Our hope is that the Political Theology Network Mentoring Initiative might even create a space where new research questions and methods will emerge.

Thanks to the generous support of the Henry Luce Foundation, the Political Theology Network awarded a limited number of scholarships to help facilitate mentoring relationships between and within various underrepresented groups. The Political Theology Network Mentoring Initiative is designed to gather and equip the next generation of leaders in the field. The PhD students selected take an interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, or even anti-disciplinary approach to their studies. The Mentoring Initiative aims to bring together students and scholars engaged in different research methods but who are addressing a shared set of questions. Our hope is that the Political Theology Network Mentoring Initiative might even create a space where new research questions and methods will emerge. Asha Noor and Roberto Sirvent serve as co-leaders of the Initiative.

In an attempt to introduce the wider Political Theology Network to the PhD students selected, we will be featuring three of our Mentoring Initiative participants per week from the middle of October to the beginning of November. We hope you enjoy learning more about these distinguished scholars.


Quincy James Rineheart

The Reverend Quincy James Rineheart is a Cisqueer African American historian of religion, theologian, academic activist, and teacher. He is a fourth-year Ph.D. student at Chicago Theological Seminary. His area of scholarship is in the field of American Religious History and Cultural Studies with emphasis in 20th century African American Religion. His doctoral project is intersectional, examining Bayard Rustin, Black Gay Men’s Bodies and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from Wilberforce University; a Master of Divinity in Ethics and Theology with a certificate in Black Church Studies from Emory University; and a Master of Sacred Theology in Theological Studies from Chicago Theological Seminary. His doctoral research on Bayard Rustin has afforded him the opportunity to present at Harvard University, Oxford Symposium on Religion at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin of Oxford, Oxford, England, Morehouse College and Governors State University and many other places. He is currently the Scholar-In-Residence for the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. In addition to serving as the Scholar-In-Residence, he was recently appointed as a Member of the Board of Directors for the Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus.

What was the highlight of your time at the 2017 AAR meeting in Boston?

The highlight of my time during the 2017 AAR meeting in Boston was our gathering with various academic mentors. The moment provided for me the opportunity to (1) be in dialogue other scholars and to ask questions about publishing as a graduate student, self-care, and marketing one’s self as an emerging scholar, (2) hear the work that my other colleagues are doing, (3) three amazing books by the faculty mentors present were gifted to us with their signatures, and (4) we were able to be present with each other over an amazing dinner and libations.

What do you wish you knew on Day 1 of your PhD program?

Given I have an amazing adviser, Dr. Lee H. Butler, Jr., Distinguished Service Professor of Africana Pastoral Care and Theology, who informed me about the critical tools I would need to excel in the doctoral program. However, I wish I would have followed his instructions, fully. For example, he informed me to take my language exams BEFORE I started the program, however, I did not. The lesson I learned in this…listen to your advisers’ wisdom!   

What’s a great book you read this year?

Spirit In The Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics by Professor Josef Sorett.  

What’s a great journal article you read this year?

“Black (W)holes and the Geometry of Black Female Sexuality” by Professor Evelyn Hammonds.   

Which two authors would you like to see in conversation with one another?

The two authors I would love to see in conversation with each other are Drs. Victor Anderson and E. Patrick Johnson. Both persons’ theories are critical for the framework of my doctoral project on Bayard Rustin.  Also, I will be given an exam on both scholars. My exam will focus on the works of both scholars in relation to issues of sexuality, identity and black body politics. Specifically, Victor Anderson’s conception of ontological blackness will be examined as the underpinnings for constructions of gender within the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and Black church context, and E. Patrick Johnson’s concept of black queer performativity will be used to complicate Bayard Rustin’s exile within the movement.     

What’s a fun place you visited this year?

I had the opportunity to visit several amazing places, in addition to interviewing some great people who knew Rustin personally, including his partner Walter. But the most thrilling place was visiting The Library of Congress. I sat for hours reading Bayard Rustin’s papers, which was an absolute delight.

What music album should everyone be listening to?

I try listening to a variety of different types of music, but the album folks should be listening to is Everything Is Love by The Carters. Their musical genius is beyond amazing.

What’s your favorite distraction from studying?

One of my absolute favorite distractions from studying is binging on Queen Sugar, Atlanta Housewives, playing Phase 10 or watching other ratchet television shows.

 What keeps you sane during your PhD program?

What keeps me sane during this process of my PhD program is my spirituality, my family, friends, and mentors, along with the fact of knowing that my work on Bayard Rustin is critical, relevant and supported.

What keeps you hopeful?

Amid the political chaos happening in the world, what keeps me hopeful is knowing that I have been called to do this work and that the ancestors along with others are cheering me on. I remain hopeful because in the words of the prophet Kendrick Lamar, “We Gon’ Be Alright!”


Lucia Hulsether

Lucia Hulsether is a doctoral candidate in Religious Studies at Yale University, where she works on the intersection of critical race and ethnic studies, queer and feminist theory, and the religious history of the Americas. Her dissertation, “Liberated Market: On the Cultural Politics of Capitalist Humanitarianism,” is a political and cultural analysis of capitalist social responsibility projects—such as microfinance, fair trade, impact investing, and conscious consumerism—in the twentieth century Americas. Lucia also writes about the race politics of religious liberalism, the history of interfaith coalition, and formations of the secular. Recently her work has been published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Public Culture. Lucia earned a Master of Divinity from Harvard and a B.A. from Agnes Scott College.

What was the highlight of your time at the 2017 AAR meeting in Boston?

My highlight was hearing Danube Johnson at the Philosophy of Religion unit, where she presented a dazzling reading of Foucault’s account of race in Society Must Be Defended.

What do you wish you knew on Day 1 of your PhD program?

That I could and should use coursework as a luxurious (and low-risk) time to branch out into different fields and to experiment with new modes of thinking.

What’s a great book you read this year?

I have been reading works that help me reflect on form-as-argument and issues of voice. Patti Yumi Cottrell’s Sorry to Disrupt the Peace accompanied me through fall.

What’s a great journal article you read this year?

Amaryah Armstrong’s article “Of Flesh and Spirit: Race, Reproduction, and Sexual Difference in the Turn to Paul” really inspired my thinking about discourses of generational inheritance in microfinance organizations I study.

Which two authors (one within the field of religion/theology and one outside the field) would you like to see in conversation with one another?

Anne Boyer and Noreen Khawaja.

What’s a fun place you visited this year (e.g. country, new restaurant, museum, etc.)?

I am writing these answers from a flight to Shanghai, where I’ll present at the Cultural Studies Association with the fabulous interdisciplinary scholars of Yale’s Working Group on Globalization and Culture.

What music album should everyone be listening to?

Anything put out by Ruby Yacht. Start here and here.

What’s your favorite distraction from studying?

Playing basketball.

What keeps you sane during your PhD program?

The existence of the dynamic, broad graduate labor movement.

What keeps you hopeful?

Among other things: reading well and people who read well.


Danube Johnson

Danube is a third-year PhD candidate in the Study of Religion at Harvard University. Her area of study is philosophy of religion, with a general interest in employing poststructural methods and critical theory to think through the history of modern political philosophy. Her dissertation project will focus on the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and contemporaneous political thinkers. She is specifically concerned with his turn to the affective dimensions of human nature, over and against shared religious identity or historical precedent, as the only legitimate foundation upon which to construct a theory of state sovereignty. The principle aim of this research is to interrogate the ways in which this Hobbesian method of state-legitimization provided a model of governance based upon prioritizing individual political subjectivity, while forgoing the potential political complications of differences in religion and shared histories among subjects. This project considers how this prioritization shaped proceeding philosophical discourses on liberalism and democracy, distinctions between reason and emotion, and freedom and bondage, especially in the works of Scottish and English enlightenment thinkers. Danube received a master’s degree in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School in 2016 and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religion from Temple University in 2014.

What was the highlight of your time at the 2017 AAR meeting in Boston?

Having AAR’s 2017 meeting in my own city was by far the biggest highlight. Given that I have lived here for four years, it was refreshing to see all the fresh, unfamiliar faces that AAR brought to Boston. Showing visiting friends and colleagues around to my favorite haunts was a blast (and having a few of my local friends in the room to cheer me on during my presentation definitely helped ease my nerves)!

What do you wish you knew on Day 1 of your PhD program?

I wish I would have known that stepping away from work—especially in moments when it feels like the world will fall apart if I do—is very often the best thing a PhD student can do. It’s a lesson that I am still slowly learning, but time spent doing other things almost always boosts mental clarity and releases anxiety for me in ways that aren’t immediately recognizable, but believe me! Running, cooking, and amateur photography work well for me, but whatever hobby you’ve been wanting to take up, go for it!

What’s a great book you read this year?

I finally got around to reading The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. It’s an incredibly impactful book for many reasons. It was especially compelling to me as someone in the habit of (too often) using critical theory sources to meditate on past life experiences. I found good company in Maggie Nelson, who transforms that compulsion into a form of high art.

What’s a great journal article you read this year?

Fellow Political Theology colleague, Lucia Hulsether’s “The Grammar of Racism: Religious Pluralism and the Birth of the Interdisciplines,” which appeared in JAAR this past spring. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the intersections of race and religion, 20th century US religious history, and/or better understanding the legacies of institutional racism in higher education.

Which two authors (one within the field of religion/theology and one outside the field) would you like to see in conversation with one another?

I would like to see Victoria Kahn, a professor of English at University of California, Berkeley in conversation with Michelle C. Sanchez, a professor of theology at Harvard Divinity School. Given her research in early modern theology, especially Calvinism, I think Prof. Sanchez could offer a constructive intervention into Kahn’s understanding of the relationship between early modern thinkers like Hobbes and Machievelli and 20th century political theology.

What’s a fun place you visited this year (e.g. country, new restaurant, museum, etc.)?

I went to England for a couple of weeks in June. We spent a week on the Cornwall Coast and hiked cliff tops almost every day (I’d never seen a coastal cliff before!). Some highlights: visiting Godrevy Point and seeing the lighthouse that inspired Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, walking through an Iron Age settlement village near Land’s End named Carn Euny, and visiting the Botallack Mines on the Tin Coast. It was mind blowing.

What music album should everyone be listening to?

I would say Vampire Weekend’s new album but alas, they’re leaving us diehard fans waiting desperately for its release!

What’s your favorite distraction from studying?

I like cleaning, especially doing laundry. I am usually distracted from studying when either my work area or my apartment is a mess anyway.

What keeps you sane during your PhD program?

Friends, family, and/or colleagues! I cannot understate how important it is to have a support system, both inside the PhD program and outside of it. Friends who are also colleagues know what you’re going through, which is a super important support system for releasing stress. It is equally important, I think, to have close allies who are outside of academic, who can help you maintain balanced sense of perspective on work and life (and who you can live vicariously through while you somewhat envy them for not being in the academy).

What keeps you hopeful?

Knowing that the revolution is just around the corner 🙂

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