Marcus L. Harvey, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies
141 Zageir Hall, CPO 2860

Spring 2018 Office Hours: M 2:00pm-3:30pm, W 1:30pm-3:00pm

Marcus L. Harvey joined the religious studies faculty at UNC Asheville in 2013. In broad terms, his research interests encompass the knowledge systems of indigenous West Africa and its diasporas. Moving beyond the regnant assumption that black religion in North America is best situated theoretically along the spectrum of Anglophone Christianity in the Western Hemisphere, Dr. Harvey investigates the significance of African epistemologies as complex cultural theaters bearing particular relevance to the study and interpretation of black religious experience. Additionally, he relates this significance to motifs articulated in the black literary tradition. His dissertation, entitled "'Life is War:' African Grammars of Knowing and the Interpretation of Black Religious Experience," analyzes Yorùbá and Akan structures of meaning in conjunction with Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. The study is phenomenological in nature and specifies alternative hermeneutical vectors grounded in Yorùbá and Akan thought. Emory University’s Graduate Division of Religion awarded the dissertation the 2013 John Fenton Prize in the Comparative Study of Religions. Dr. Harvey is currently working on a related book manuscript that builds upon research conducted in various areas of Ghana such as Accra, Kumasi, Larteh, Kwahu, Ananse Village, Koforidua, Asikuma, Mampong, and Cape Coast, as well as in the Nigerian cities of Lagos, Ilé-Ifẹ̀, and Modakeke.

Dr. Harvey's cardinal teaching goals involve equipping students to critically engage "religion" in connection with three principal themes: 1) "religion" as a dynamic artifact of transgeographic, heterogeneous, and often contested cultural processes; 2) "religion" as fundamental orientation; and 3) "religion" as knowledge construction.


  • Ph.D., Emory University, 2012

 Courses Taught

  • RELS 178: Religion and Film (First-Year Colloquium) (Honors and Non-Honors)
  • RELS 200: Introduction to the Study of Religion
  • RELS 373: African Religions in the Americas and the Caribbean
  • RELS 373: Zora Neale Hurston and Black Religion: Theoretical Foundations
  • RELS 374: Religion and the Paranormal in the Contemporary American Imagination (Honors)
  • RELS 398: Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
  • RELS 492: Senior Seminar in Religious Studies
  • HUM  414: The Individual in the Contemporary World

 Research and Teaching Interests        

  • Cultures and Knowledge Systems of Indigenous West Africa and Africa's Diasporas
  • African and African Atlantic Histories
  • Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Africana Religions
  • Phenomenology of Religion
  • History of Religions
  • Religion and Performance Theory
  • Literature and Religion
  • Religion and Comparative Theory
  • Ritual Studies
  • Folklore Studies
  • Science and Religion

 Scholarly Publications and Presentations

  • "From the Sacred Sound of the Conch Shell to the Cemetery Dance: Reimagining an Africana Festival Created in a Southern Appalachian City." Special Issue, Race and Religion: New Approaches to African American Religions, Religions 8, no. 8 (2017): 1-30. doi: 10.3390/rel8080149.
  • “’Hard Skies’ and Bottomless Questions: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Epistemological ‘Opacity’ in Black Religious Experience.” Journal of Africana Religions 4, no. 2 (2016): 186-214.
  • "Deity from a Python, Earth from a Hen, Humankind from Mystery: Narrative and Knowledge in Yorùbá Cosmology" ("Divindade de uma Píton, Terra de uma Galinha, Humanidade do Mistério: Narrativa e Conhecimento na Cosmologia Iorubá"). Estudos de Religião 29, no. 2 (2015): 237-270.
  • "Medial Deities and Relational Meanings: Tracing Elements of an Akan Grammar of Knowing." Journal of Africana Religions 3, no. 4 (2015): 397-441.
  • "Engaging the Òrìṣà: An Exploration of the Yorùbá Concepts of Ìbejì and Olókun as Theoretical Principles in Black Theology." Black Theology: An International Journal 6, no. 1 (2008): 61-82.
  • “’The Thing That Knowledge Can’t Eat:’ Malidoma Somé and the Future of Africana Religious Studies.” Lecture Presented as Part of the Jerry Jackson Lecture Series at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC, November 8, 2018.
  • "The 'Speech of Silence' and Other Decolonizing Concepts: New Theoretical Horizons in Malidoma Somé’s Of Water and the Spirit." Presentation at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, November 18-21, 2017.  
  • "'If You Want to See Everything, You Become Blind': Phenomenological Epistemology as an Approach to the Study of Autochthonous African Spiritual Cultures." Presentation at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX, November 19-22, 2016.
  • “Ears to the Conch Shell, Feet to the Ancestors: Reimagining Asheville’s Goombay Festival.” Presentation at the African Americans in Western North Carolina Conference, Asheville, NC, October 22-23, 2015. (Invited)
  • “’Hard Skies’ and Bottomless Questions: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Epistemological ‘Opacity’ in Black Religious Experience.” Presentation at the National Association of African American Studies Conference, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, February 9-14, 2015.
  • “Yorùbá Cosmology as Epistemology and Cultural Matrix.” Presentation at the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for College and University Teachers (Theme: Black Aesthetics and African Centered Cultural Expressions: Sacred Systems in the Nexus between Cultural Studies, Religion and Philosophy), Atlanta, GA, July 13-August 1, 2014. (Invited)
  • “Approaching Yorùbá Epistemology: A Heuristic Investigation.” Presentation at the Òrìṣà World Congress, Ọbáfẹ́mi Awólọ́wọ̀ University, Ilé-Ifẹ̀, Nigeria, July 24-28, 2013. (Invited)
  • "Engaging the Òrìṣà: An Exploration of the Yorùbá Concepts of Ìbejì and Olókun as Theoretical Principles in Black Theology." Presentation at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, November 18-21, 2006.



  • We Come as Friends, by Hubert Sauper. Religious Studies Review 43, no. 1 (March 2017): 74.

Public Intellectual Work

  • “Africanity and the Problem of Afrophobia.” Speech, TEDx UNC Asheville, Asheville, NC, March 3, 2018.
  • The Waters and Harvey Show. Asheville, NC: Blue Ridge Public Radio (NPR for Western North Carolina), March 2017-Present.
  • “The Discursive Prison of Race: A Critical Response to Darin J. Waters’ Essay on 'Brazil and the Idea of a Racial Democracy.'” Monthly Meeting of the Pen and Plate Club, Asheville, NC, July 16, 2015.
  • "America's Africa and Black Cultural Identity." The Urban News (Asheville, NC), August 12, 2014.