Location: Bowdoin / Judith S. Casselberry

Africana Studies

Judith S. Casselberry

Associate Professor of Africana Studies

Contact Information

Africana Studies

Adams Hall - 204

Teaching this semester

AFRS 2201 / MUS 2291 / GSWS 2207 / REL 2201. Black Women, Politics, Music, and the Divine

Judith Casselberry
Seminar. Examines the convergence of politics and spirituality in the musical work of contemporary black women singer-songwriters in the United States. Analyzes material that interrogates and articulates the intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality generated across a range of religious and spiritual terrains with African diasporic/black Atlantic spiritual moorings, including Christianity, Islam, and Yoruba. Focuses on material that reveals a womanist (black feminist) perspective by considering the ways resistant identities shape and are shaped by artistic production. Employs an interdisciplinary approach by incorporating ethnomusicology, anthropology, literature, history, and performance and social theory. Explores the work of Shirley Caesar, the Clark Sisters, Meshell Ndegeocello, Abby Lincoln, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Dianne Reeves, among others.

AFRS 2228 / ANTH 2227 / MUS 2292. Protest Music

Judith Casselberry
Focuses on the ways black people have experienced twentieth-century events. Examines social, economic, and political catalysts for processes of protest music production across genres including gospel, blues, folk, soul, funk, rock, reggae, and rap. Analysis of musical and extra- musical elements includes style, form, production, lyrics, intent, reception, commodification, mass-media, and the Internet. Explores ways in which people experience, identify, and propose solutions to poverty, segregation, oppressive working conditions, incarceration, sexual exploitation, violence, and war.

Judith S. Casselberry


  • Ph.D., Yale University - African American Studies and Anthropology
  • MA, Wesleyan University – Ethnomusicology
  • Bachelors of Music, Berklee College of Music - Music Production and Engineering

Professor Casselberry’s research and teaching interests include the anthropology of Black Americans in the United States, exploring “racial” authenticity, identity construction, and Black public cultures as they change over time; women, gender, and religion, examining ways women negotiate power within religious institutions that incorporate doctrines of female submission; and music and social movements, analyzing intersections of ethnicity, gender, and class in the formation of religious, spiritual, political, and social consciousness and the production of musical genres. Her dissertation, entitled “Blessed Assurance: Belief and Power Among African American Apostolic Women,” examines the workings of spiritual authority within a New York based Holiness-Pentecostal denomination and the extent to which it enables a particular form of female power.

Professor Casselberry, as a vocalist/guitarist, performs nationally and internationally with Toshi Reagon and BigLovely. Over the past seven years she has participated in European tours of “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” directed by Robert Wilson with book and libretto by Bernice Johnson Reagon.

Conferences, Panels And Invited Lectures

Plenary Session, “‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’: A Roundtable on Black Women, Musical Performance, and Power,” with Daphne A. Brooks and Maureen E. Mahon. International Association for the Study of Popular Music Conference, Northeastern University, Boston MA, 2007

“Power and Performance among African American Holiness-Pentecostal Women.” The Louisville Institute Winter Seminar, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, KY., 2006

“‘We’ll Understand it Better By and By’: Black American Pentecostalism and the Politics of Respectability.” American Studies Association Atlanta, GA., 2005

“Liz McComb and Pentecostal Performance Strategies.” Barnard Center for Research on Women, Faculty Lecture Series. Barnard College New York, NY., 2005

“Rethinking Rock Music Genealogy: Liz McComb and Pentecostal Performance Strategies.” On panel entitled, “‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’: Black Women, Performance, and Power.” American Studies Association Atlanta, GA., 2004

“Questioning Christian Imagery and Biblical Interpretations: The Funk of Me’Shell Ndegeócello.” International Cultural Encounter in Cuba: History, Culture and Society in the African Diaspora. Havana, Cuba. Sponsored by the Association of Black Anthropologists, 2000

“The Living-Dead and Spirits: Inspiration and Guidance for Black Women in Popular American Music.” 10th annual Women’s Studies Conference, Southern Connecticut State University. New Haven, CT., 2000

“The Living-Dead and Spirits: Inspiration and Guidance for Black Women in Popular American Music.” New England Chapter of Society for Ethnomusicology. (1999 James T. Koetting Memorial Prize recipient), 1999

Invited lecturer, “Call and Response, Signifyin’ and Other Strategies of Power in Black Music.” Tufts University. Music Dept., 1998

Invited lecturer, “100 Years of Black Women in Music,” co-taught with Hattie Gossett and Toshi Reagon. Learning Alliance, Options for Education and Action, New York, NY., 1992

Invited lecturer, “Strike While the Iron is Hot: Developing and Managing Careers in Music” Berklee College of Music., 1991

Chapters, articles:

Contributor, Radical Harmonies: A History of the Women’s Music Cultural Movement. Boden Sandstrom, ed. University of Illinois Press., 2010 (forthcoming)

“Koko Taylor.” Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas, 2nd edition. Colin Palmer, Editor in Chief. Macmillan Reference Books, USA: Michigan., 2005


Jerma A. Jackson’s Singing in My Soul: Black Gospel Music in a Secular Age, for The North Star: A Journal of African American Religious History. Vol. 8, Number 2. Spring. 2005

Marla F. Frederick’s Between Sundays: Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith, for The North Star: A Journal of African American Religious History Vol. 7, No. 2. Spring. 2004

2008-2009 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Research Associate, Center for African American Studies, Princeton University
2005-2006 Ford Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Fellow
2005-2006 The Louisville Institute Honorary Doctoral Dissertation Fellow
2005-2006 Yale University Dissertation Fellowship
2005 David Payne-Carter Excellence in Teaching Award Nominee. New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, Performance Studies Department.
2002 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Honorary Mention
2001-2004 Yale University Fellowship.
1999 The James T. Koetting Memorial Prize, Northeast Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology.
1997-1999 Wesleyan University Graduate Assistanceship.
1986-1990 Professional Music Scholarship, Berklee College of Music.
1986-1990 Massachusetts State Scholarship, Massachusetts State Scholarship Program
1989 Yamaha Music Technology Award, Berklee College of Music.

American Anthropological Association
Society of Anthropology for Religion
Association of Black Anthropologists
American Academy of Religion
American Studies Association
Society for Pentecostal Studies
Society for Ethnomusicology