After receiving a Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Georgetown University in 2017, Heba Arafa Abdelfattah was a visiting assistant professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgia Institute of Technology. She comes to Yale from London, where she has been a research fellow at the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations. She is currently completing a book manuscript on film, Islam, and modernity in colonial Egypt. At Yale, her project will center on the study of the Arabic genre of “Islamic Hymns” (ibtihalat) as an exemplar of a popular culture approach to study Islam as a lived experience based on the inclusion—not the elimination—of difference.
Kati Fitzgerald’s Yale project, entitled “No Pure Lands: The Contemporary Buddhism of Tibetan Lay Women,” will use ethnographic data collected in Tibetan areas of China and India to consider how women’s relationships, physical acts of religious devotion, chant and mantra recitation, and faith illustrate and enact an embodied conceptualization of contemporary Buddhism. This work theorizes sacred music as both liturgical recitation and as the soundscapes of domestic religion in contemporary Tibetan homes. Fitzgerald received a Ph.D. in comparative studies: religious studies from The Ohio State University in 2020.
Melanie R. Hill comes to Yale from Rutgers University, where she is assistant professor of American literature. She received a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018, with graduate certificates in Africana studies and gender/women/sexuality studies. At Yale, she will work on her forthcoming book Colored Women Sittin’ on High: Womanist Sermonic Practice in Literature and Music, an interdisciplinary analysis of the presence of Black women preachers in African American literature, music, and religion. Looking at the exegetical, eschatological, and pedagogical elements of womanist sermonic practice, the book investigates how the sermon is personified through the Black woman preacher’s emphasis on musicality, expressivity, thematic relevance, and improvisatory phrasing. Hill is also a violinist who has performed at the White House and the Papal Mass of Pope Francis.
Qingfan Jiang received a Ph.D. in historical musicology from Columbia University in 2021. A recipient of the AMS 50 Dissertation Fellowship, Jiang is working on a book project entitled Missionaries, Music, and the Making of a Global Enlightenment. Based on archival research in Portugal, France, and China, her project highlights the importance of sacred music in the cross-cultural exchange between the East and the West. Her research lends a fresh perspective to the study of the Enlightenment not as a purely European intellectual movement but as a product of the fruitful dialogue between China and Europe. Jiang’s research is supported by ACLS, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, the Council for European Studies, and the Ricci Institute.
Bongani Ndodana-Breen is a South African composer whose works have been performed around the world to great acclaim. His work spans vocal, symphonic, and chamber music; his opera Winnie, based on the life of Winnie Mandela, was a critical success on its premiere in Pretoria, and is the subject of a chapter in Naomi André’s Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement. At Yale, he will create a major new work, New Africa Passion, based largely on Gospel texts, drawing from the many languages of Africa and the Diaspora, and evoking a pan-African sonic perspective.
Originally from Colombia, Catalina Ospina Jimenez received a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Chicago in 2021. Her book project at Yale, Identifying and Subverting Epistemic Asymmetries in the Colonial Andes, will challenge assumptions in the analysis of Indigenous artistic production in colonial contexts. Focusing on seventeenth and eighteenth century mopa mopa objects, her book seeks to nuance our understanding of the way in which colonial structures inflicted injustices on colonial subjects in their capacity as knowers and intellectual producers. The book aims to provide valuable methodological approaches to scholars in art history, anthropology, and philosophy seeking to account for and address the epistemic asymmetries that take place when cultural encounters take place in oppressive conditions.
Marie-Ange Rakotoniaina, a liturgical scholar whose work focuses on early Christianity, received a Ph.D. in religion from Emory University in 2020. She returns for a second fellowship year to Yale, where she is currently working on a book project (tentatively) titled Of Heart and Time: The Sabbath in the Age of Augustine. Her fellowship project explores how Augustine’s preaching on the subject of the Sabbath opens new possibilities of religious devotion. Her investigation of various metaphors of the spiritual Sabbath in relation to devotional practices in their liturgical contexts—from fragrance to musical instruments used in psalmist worship or the changing performance of Augustine’s congregations, from memory to desire, from sanctification to obedience—reveals how the practice of the Sabbath finds an original place within the private landscape of the heart.
Postdoctoral Teaching Associates
Christian Music Studies
Bernard Gordillo comes to Yale from the University of California, Riverside, where he has been resident scholar at the Center for Iberian and Latin American Music (CILAM), since receiving a Ph.D. in historical musicology there in 2019. In addition to teaching, at Yale he will conduct research on music, Catholic social movements, and liberation theology in Central America after the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), and pursue the completion of a book project entitled Canto de Marte: Art Music, Popular Culture, and U.S. Intervention in Nicaragua, under contract with the Oxford University Press Series Currents in Latin American and Iberian Music.
Religion and Literature
Carla E. Neuss received a Ph.D. in theatre & performance studies from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2021. She is currently working on a monograph that on transnational circulations of medieval biblical drama. The project traces four twentieth and twenty-first century theatrical adaptations of the medieval mystery cycle tradition across the global North and South—ranging from pre-revolutionary Russia and World War II France to post-apartheid South Africa and the contemporary United States—exploring questions of social and spiritual transformation through performance during periods of political rupture.