Elonda Clay

Panel 1

Who Is Elonda?

20150405_133331Elonda Clay is a scholar of religion and PhD candidate at VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands in Theology and Religious Studies. Her dissertation, “Reel DNA Ancestry: How the Mediation of Genomics Represents the Myth of Biological Race as Real” researches the ways that direct-to-consumer genetic ancestry testing, genealogy, and popular racialized notions of biology are mediated and remediated through documentary films, television, and the Internet.

She has earned graduate degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia (M.A., Library and Information Science), the Interdenominational Theological Center (M.Div.), LSTC (M.Th. in Religion and Science) and received her undergraduate degree from Kansas State University (B.S., Physical Science).

Clay has published multiple articles and book chapters and made presentations on the topics of race and genomics in the media, hip hop and religion, Africana religions and ecology, the politics of archival collection and representation, and witnessing and testifying in digital spaces.

Clay was elected and served on the Board of Directors for the American Academy of Religion as the 2012-2013 National Student Director. She has been actively involved in AAR and presented ten conference papers at both national and regional AAR annual meetings. Over the years, she has been active on several committees of the American Academy of Religion, including the Technology Task Force and program steering committees for Critical Approaches to Hip Hop and Religion and the Ritual Studies Group. Oh yeah, and AAR THATCamp too. I probably forgot some more stuff.

In 2015, she became the founder and Digital Curator of The MTwo Project, a social justice digital humanities project that focuses on digital activism against police brutality among Africana women activists in the U.S.  Previously, she was employed as a Digital Librarian and Archivist at Philander Smith College (HBCU).

She is the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships, including the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) Award, the Fund for Theological Education Doctoral Fellowship, and the Woman of Color Scholarship (UMC).

This bio tells you what type of things I’ve been able to accomplish academically, however, as music artist Sting would say, “You can pour over everything in my CV, you’d still know nothin’ ’bout me.” So what are my interests? What kind of things do I like to do?

In my spare time [and I am using humor here], I like to watch machinima (machine-cinema),especially user-created machinima using The Sims video game engine or Second Life. More specifically, I look for hip hop machinima. I also like to study the multiple apocalyptic themes in movies and video games. It seems that almost every movie that comes out has a post-apocalyptic theme.

Recently, I’ve started looking at foodie culture and food porn as it relates to micro-celebrity and new configurations of old racial and gender stereotypes. Yes, NOW you are saying to yourself, “Boy, she really knows how to have fun!!”

I love making jewelry and shopping at estate sales and thrift stores too.

Things I Like to Do

I have a tv that has been in the same box since my latest move. As you can tell, I’m not a big TV viewer, however, when visiting others I’m big on watching anything sci-fi, HGTV, and comedies or comic performances. I miss you still Dave Chappelle! Kevin Hart, you make Real Husbands of Hollywood hilarious! Cartoons such as Family Guy, South Park, and The Boondocks are a good break from my studies. On a blue moon, I catch back episodes of Eureka or Fringe on Hulu. I also watch PBS science shows and Science.tv sometimes.

Whenever possible, I grab food and a book, then head for Loose Park or it’s Rose Garden. When spring arrives, I have been known to sneak up on a tree & hug it.

Panel 3


“I Only Roll With Goddesses”: Black Women as the Divine Feminine in Internet Subcultures and Digital Visual Culture


The MTwo Project is a social justice digital humanities project that focuses broadly on the media activism and community activism of family members whose lives have been impacted by police brutality or gun violence after their loved ones have been killed. The initial phase of the project highlights the activism of five African American mothers involved in high-profile police brutality cases; Kadiatou Diallo (Amadou Diallo), Sabrina Fulton (Travon Martin), Lesley (Lezley) McSpadden (Michael Brown), Gwen Carr (Eric Garner), and Gloria Darden (Freddie Gray).

Other reformers, activists, topics, and resources will be added during the first three months of 2016.

AAR THATCamp 2013
Race, Religion, and the Digital Humanities

This session will consider the ways in which “difference” makes a difference in broaching zones of contact between religious studies and the digital humanities. I am proposing an open conversation to address silences as well as critically rethink the problems and possibilities of engaging race (as well as ethnicity, gender, sexuality, nationality, ability, and class) for digital humanities and the study of religion. Potential topics for discussion include this overly ambitious but hopefully fruitful list:

* Representations of people of color and the religion-related cultural productions created by people of color on the Internet.
* The recovery/preservation of works about and by people of color in the study of religion.
* Sharing ways that we might incorporate digital tools, coding and software applications (i.e. Blogs, Live Group Video Broadcasting, Virtual Environments , Cloud Computing, and Augmented Reality) into teaching and collaborations in race and religion research.
* The development and application of digital research methodologies for the study of race and religion.
* Questions concerning how identities (gender, race, class, sexuality, religious identifications) could inform and transform the theory and practice of digital humanities.

Panel 4


* Many publication materials are available on Downloads page.

Book Chapters

2017    “Backyard Gardens as Sacred Spaces: An Emerging Research Agenda of Africana Spiritual Ecology for Ecowomanist Thought” In The Elements of Religion and Nature, Laura Hobgood and Whitney Bauman, editors. (Forthcoming, 2017).

2015    “We Are What We Archive” In Fabricating Origins, Russell McCutcheon, ed. (Equinox Publishing, 2015).

2015    “#NOWTHATSRELIGIONANDHIPHOP: Mapping the Terrain of Religion and Hip Hop in Cyberspace,” in Religion in Hip Hop: Mapping the New Terrain, edited by Monica R. Miller and Anthony B. Pinn (Bloomsbury Press, 2015).

2011    “Mediated Science, Genetics and Identity in the U.S. African Diaspora” in Media, Spiritualities, and Social Change, Stewart Hoover and Monica Emerich, eds. (London; New York: Continuum Press, 2011).

2011    “How Does It Feel to be an Environmental Problem? Studying Religion and Ecology in the African Diaspora” in Inherited Land: The Changing Grounds of Religion and Ecology, Whitney Bauman, Richard Bohannon, and Kevin O’Brien eds. (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2011), 148-170.

Manuscripts and Journal Articles

2011    “These Gods Got Swagger: Avatars, Gameplay, and the Digital Performance of Hip Hop Culture in Machinima” Bulletin for the Study of Religion [Online], Volume 40 Number 3 (19 August 2011). Available at: http://www.equinoxjournals.com/BSOR/article/view/10600

2010    “A Black Theology of Liberation or Legitimation? A Postcolonial Response to Cone’s Black Theology, Black Power at Forty” Black Theology: An International Journal [Equinox], November 2010, 307-326.

2009    “Two Turntables and a Microphone: Turntablism, Ritual, and Implicit Religion” in Culture and Religion [Routledge] Vol. 10, No. 1, March 2009, 23–38.

2004    “Subtle Impact: Technology Trends and the Black Church” Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center 31: No. 1 & 2 (Fall 2003/Spring 2004), 153-178.

Encyclopedia Articles

2010    “Earth Day,” Cultural Resource Unit, online entry for The African American Lectionary. http://www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org/PopupCulturalAid.asp?LRID=145
April 22, 2010.

Book Reviews

2007    Book Review of Daphne C. Wiggins, Righteous Content: Black Women’s Perspectives of Church and Faith. (New York University Press, 2004). The Journal of Religion, Volume 87, Number 3 (July 2007).

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2016    “WTH?!! H8U {People}!! – With Anti-Black Trolling, E-Bile, and Racist Shitstorms, Is a Love Praxis Possible in Mediatized Worlds?” Presentation at American Academy of Religion Conference, San Antonio, Texas, November 2016. Session: Black Theology and Revolutionary Love.

“Conjuring the Diasporic African American Past for the Present: Reality TV Genomics, the Remediation of Collective Memory, and the Hegemonic Hijacking of Black Identities.” Presentation at American Academy of Religion Conference. San Antonio, Texas, November 2016. Co-Sponsored Session: Religion, Media, and Culture Group and Religion, Memory, History Group.

“Is Digital Activism Shifting the Gendered Politics of U.S. Black Struggle? The Increasing Visibility of U.S. African American Women and Same Gender Loving Activists On Social Media.” Presentation at 2016 Consultation of African and African-Diasporan Women in Religion and Theology, Theme: “Say Her Name!: Africana Women as Interpreters, Healers and Revolutionaries.” Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia, July 2016.

“Digital Activism Workshop I and II.” Workshops facilitated at 2016 Consultation of African and African-Diasporan Women in Religion and Theology, Theme: “Say Her Name!: Africana Women as Interpreters, Healers and Revolutionaries.” Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia, July 2016.

2015    “Burn This Bitch Down! Protest Space, Apocalyptic Envisioning, and Media Representations of Racial Unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.” American Academy of Religion Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, November 2015. Presentation for the panel, From Post-Apartheid Cape Town to Post-Racial Ferguson: Black Death, Public Protests, and the Recasting of White Shamelessness.

2014    “Backyard Gardens as Sacred Spaces: An Emerging Research Agenda of Spiritual Ecology for Ecowomanism.” American Academy of Religion Conference, San Diego, California, November 2014. Presentation for the panel, Ecowomanism 101: A Roundtable Discussing Vital Themes and Trajectories.

2014    “Can Womanist Scholarship Survive Without the Dutiful Daughter Complex? On Genealogies, Waves, and Generational Rifts.” American Academy of Religion Conference, San Diego, California, November 2014. Presentation for the panel, Third Wave Womanism: Mapping the New Terrain of Identity through Discourse.

2014    “From Advisor = Mentor to Color Matching: Questioning Common Assumptions About Mentoring in Religious Studies and Theology.” American Academy of Religion Conference, San Diego, California, November 2014.

2014    Plenary Speaker, What Administrators Need to Know about Racial Ethnic Students: Restructuring the Academy for Success.” Association of Theological Schools (ATS) Student Personnel Administrators’ Conference, Orlando, Florida, April 2014.

2013    THATCamp Session Organizer: “Race, Religion, and the Digital Humanities.” American Academy of Religion Conference, Baltimore, Maryland, November 2013.

2013    Panel Organizer and Presider, “Cultivating Leadership for the New Academy and Civic Engagement: Interrogating Leadership Skills, Styles, and Contexts.” American Academy of Religion Conference, Baltimore, Maryland, November 2013.

2013    Panel Organizer and Presider, “New Paradigms in Evolving Learning Contexts: Navigating Changes in Teaching Religion and Theology.” American Academy of Religion Conference, Baltimore, Maryland, November 2013. Co-sponsored by Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning.

2013    Invited Panelist, “Shifting Sands of the Academy: Examining Trends in Higher Education”, American Academy of Religion Conference, Baltimore, Maryland, November 2013.

2013    “Imagineering Geneatopia: Genomic Heterotopias and Biologized Blackness in the PBS African American Lives Series.” Second Annual Ways of Knowing Conference. Science, Religion, and Culture Program at Harvard Divinity School, Boston, Massachusetts, October 2013.

2013    Panel Speaker, “Reflections From the Future of the Field.” Fund for Theological Education Consultation on Doctoral Education. Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana, April 2013.

2012    Invited Speaker for Jesse B. Semple Brown Bag. “Know Your Genes, Meet Your Ancestors, Reunite Your Roots!”: The Selling of DNA Ancestry Testing” Langston Hughes Cultural Center, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, March 2012.

2011    “Consuming Authentic Ancestry: Personal Genomics, Genetic-Ethnic Identities, and the Co-Creation of Genetic Return.” Chicago Consumer Culture Community. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, December 2011.

2011    “Your Ancestors are Waiting in Cyberspace! Genealogy, DNA, and Diasporic Mediascapes.” American Academy of Religion Conference, San Francisco, California, November 2011. Presentation for the panel: Reimagining Black Theology after Google.

2010    “The Curious Case of Oprah the Zulu: DNA Ancestry, Celebrity Narratives of Genetic Return, and Motherland Utopias.” American Academy of Religion Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, October 2010. Presentation for the panel: Claiming Africa, Claiming the Americas: Religion and Identity in the Diaspora.

2009    “A Black Theology of Liberation or Legitimation? A Neo-Washingtonian Critique of Cone’s Black Theology.” American Academy of Religion Conference, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, November. Presentation for the panel: Fortieth Retrospective of James Cone’s Black Theology and Black Power: The Next Forty Years.

2009    “Alice Walker as a Theological, Methodological, and Political Problem for Womanist and Black Theologies.” American Academy of Religion Conference, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, November 2009.

2009    “Using Genetics to Overturn The Legacy of Slavery? The Hope and the Hype of Popular Representations of Personal Genomics, U.S. African Americans and Genetic Ancestry Testing.” American Society of Human Genetics 59th Annual Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, October 20-24, 2009. Poster Presentation.

2009    “‘Roots’ in a Test Tube: Popular Media Presentations of Genetic Genealogy and Identity in the U.S. African Diaspora.” Personalized Genomics Conference – Genome Canada. Banff, Alberta, Canada, September 2009. Poster Presentation.

2009    “In The End of All Things, A New Beginning: Virtual Apocalyptic Imagination and Evil in Video Games.” Midwest American Academy of Religion, Chicago, Illinois, April 2009.

2009    “From CSI to Gattaca to The Journey of Man: Genetics, Identity and Media Presentations of Science.” Faith and Science Lecture, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Regional Office, Chicago, Illinois, February 2009.

2008    “Sims in the Hands of a Gaming God: God Games and Theories of the Apocalyptic.” The Seventh International Association of Cultural Studies Crossroads Conference. Kingston, Jamaica, July 2008.

2008    “Mediating the Motherland: Negotiating African Diaspora, Home, and the Human Genome with Mediated Science.” Media, Spiritualities, and Social Change Conference. Center for Media, Religion and Culture. University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, June 2008.