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About Ashon

Teaching and Writing

I am Associate Professor of Religious Studies and African American and African Studies at University of Virginia. My research and teaching experiences are in the areas of Black Studies, Performance Theory and Sound Studies, Philosophy and Theology, Black Feminist and Queer theories.

My first book, Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility (Fordham University Press, 2016), engages a wide range of critical paradigms from black studies, queer theory, and sound studies to theology, continental philosophy, and performance studies to theorize the ways in which alternative or “otherwise” modes of existence can serve as disruptions against the marginalization of and violence against minoritarian lifeworlds and possibilities for flourishing. Examining the whooping, shouting, noise-making, and speaking in tongues of Black Pentecostalism–a multi-racial, multi-class, multi-national Christian sect with one strand of its modern genesis in 1906 Los Angeles–Blackpentecostal Breath reveals how these aesthetic practices allow for the emergence of alternative modes of social organization. These choreographic, sonic, and visual practices and the sensual experiences they create are not only important for imagining what I call “otherwise worlds of possibility,” they also yield a general hermeneutics, a methodology for reading culture in an era when such expressions are increasingly under siege.

My second book, The Lonely Letters, will be published with Duke University Press in the spring of 2020. The Lonely Letters is a semi-fictional, semi-autobiographical attempt to think the relationship of quantum theory, mysticism, relationality, and blackness together by considering the sound and noise of Blackpentecostal spaces. In an epistolary form, The Lonely Letters is about love and heartbreak and hope and joy. It is about sound and subjectivity, about desire and movement. 19 original paintings created from my performance art practice will be included in the text. It’s about the sociality of life against the repressions of anti-black, anti-queer violence and violation, it’s about black life as performance life as joyous life.

I am working on a third book, tentatively titled “Made Instrument,” about the role of the Hammond Organ in the Black Church, in Black sacred practice and in Black social life more broadly.

All my work is about otherwise possibility …