Elonda Clay

Elonda Clay is the Director of the Library at the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. She is also a scholar of religion and PhD candidate in Theology and Religious Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands. Her work has been supported by the American Society for Human Genetics, the Forum for Theological Education, the John Templeton Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the United Methodist Women of Color, GreenFaith Coalition for the Environment, and Forschungsinstitut für Philosophie Hannover (Research Institute for Philosophy Hannover, Germany).

Her dissertation, Reel DNA Ancestry: Race, Sacred DNA, and Myth in Media Portrayals of African Americans and Genetic Ancestry examines how direct-to-consumer genetic ancestry, genealogy television, and popular racialized notions of biology are mediated and remediated through popular entertainment media and the Internet. It is argued that media framing of the explanatory powers, mystical meanings, or sacred status of DNA and appeals to narratives of origins, race, and new DNA ethnicities present in popular entertainment involve remediating cultural and archival memory while concurrently mediating genomic science. Her work reframes the intermediality of genetic ancestry stories by examining how media representations stage visual materializations of race, roots, and genetic return in order to assert the importance of DNA as a crucial form of ancestral proof and self-identification. While media portrayals of African Americans and genetic ancestry popularize a post-genomic respatialization of genealogy, they are still heavily invested in reifying biological differences between populations.

Clay currently serves on the American Academy of Religion steering committees for Media, Religion, and Culture and Critical Approaches to Religion and Hip Hop. 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).

At MTSO, Elonda has worked on issues of librarianship as anti-racist work and building dialogues on science denialism between scientists and religious leaders. In addition to her academic writing, her poetry collection, “Know That You Have Been Loved, blends forms and genres to address core themes of Womanist wisdom: family, love, survival, resistance, resilience, and laughter. For more information: elondaclay.com


* For more information on past and current research, visit my research page or academia.edu page.

Book Chapters

2018    “Backyard Gardens as Sacred Spaces: An Ecowomanist Spiritual Ecology” In The Elements of Religion and Nature, Laura Hobgood and Whitney Bauman, editors. (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).

2017    “Secular Voices of Color: Digital Storytelling, Everyday Activism, and Creating Diverse Secularist Community” in Humanism in a Non-Humanist World, Monica R. Miller, editor. Studies in Humanism and Atheism series. (Springer International Publishing : Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan, 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.

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.

Book Reviews

2017    Book Review of Carolyn Moxley Rouse, John L. Jackson, Marla F. Frederick, Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media ans Racial Empowerment. (New York, NY: New York University Press, November 2016). Reading Religion, American Academy of Religion, September 2017.

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).

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.


Black Goddess Rising: A Digital Humanities Archive


The MTwo Project was a social justice digital humanities project that focused 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 highlighted 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).

AAR THATCamp 2013
Race, Religion, and the Digital Humanities

This session considered the ways in which “difference” makes a difference in broaching zones of contact between religious studies and the digital humanities. I proposed 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 of discussion included 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.

Purchase Book



Know That You Have Been Loved is a poetry collection that explores how deep family ties, love and its substitutes, grief, pain, struggle, and laughter possess the potential to shape and inspire growth, healing, and self-love for each of us. Ever grounded in the legacies of her ancestors and America’s persistent wounds of race, Elonda uses historical turning points, nature, and the richness of women’s wisdom as her writing companions. Know That You Have Been Loved is her debut poetry collection & the first book in the Words from the Wells of Black Women’s Wisdom series.


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