Ecologies, Environmentalisms, and the Black Sacred Arts

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From May 13-15, 2024, Yale Institute of Sacred Music’s third conference on the Black sacred arts will convene scholars and artists in New Haven, CT to explore connections between the Black sacred arts, ecology, and environmental concerns.

Keynote speakers will include Tracey Hucks, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Africana Religious Studies at Harvard Divinity School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Dianne M. Stewart, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Emory University.

The conference will highlight research and practice from multi-religious perspectives and disparate geographies in the Black Atlantic that consider links between expressive cultures and topics such as climate change, the biodiversity crisis, the human and more-than-human nexus, extractive capitalism in Africa and its diaspora, and links between ecology and ritual material culture. We aim to encourage interdisciplinary conversations about entanglements between the Black sacred arts, ecology, and environmental issues via sonic, visual, and other sensoria that cut across religious, geographic, or other social categories throughout the Black Atlantic and beyond. Proposals on any confluence of religion, ecology, and environmentalism ranging from studies of Black Buddhism to Islam, and research on the Black Church to Santería are welcome.

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We invite proposals for presentations that address topics including, but are not limited to, the Black sacred arts and:

  • Transforming perspectives on ecology and natural environments
  • Activating new relationships with beyond human / more-than-human worlds 
  • Perceiving more-than-human worlds as/and radical new forms of being, acting, and thinking
  • Witnessing conceptions of sentience, landscapes, and the sounds of sentient landscapes
  • Upholding the roles of spirituality, ritual, and sacred practice in movements for environmental justice, in historical and contemporary contexts
  • Contemplating cosmological perspectives on climate change
  • Understanding links between geological, hemispheric, and oceanic epistemologies
  • Embodying expansive notions of blackness and Indigeneity in relation to ecologies / environments / environmentalisms
  • Considering Maroon religious life, tempos, and temporalities
  • Propitiating spirits / sacred forces tied to ecologies / environments
  • Working through ecological grief and navigating conditions of unviability or impossibility
  • Imagining ecological futures
  • Exploring sensory engagements and “ecological attunement”

Accepted presenters and performers in attendance will receive an honorarium of $250 to help defray the cost of travel to New Haven. In addition, they will be provided with hotel accommodations and several meals at the conference.


We welcome abstracts for individual papers and organized panels from advanced graduate students, faculty, scholars working outside the academy, and practitioners. Individual papers and presentations will be allotted 20 minutes apiece; organized panels may include 3-4 presenters. Abstracts should be approximately 300 words in length and accompanied by a 150-word bio or personal narrative. For an organized panel, please include the panel title, a panel abstract, and all individual abstracts compiled together as one submission.

We also invite proposals for alternative formats that incorporate interactive engagement with artistic and ritual phenomena, such as lecture-demonstrations, sonic activations, and listening and viewing sessions. Those interested in pursuing alternative presentational modalities should describe aspects of format and proposed length in their abstract. Performers’ abstracts may contain one URL for a multimedia supplement directly related to the presentation. The conference will be conducted in-person in New Haven.

How to submit abstracts

Abstracts should be submitted by December 15, 2023, at If submitting a proposal for an organized panel, the panel organizer or chair should upload a PDF containing the panel title and abstracts from all panel participants. Applicants will need to open a free account with Submittable before uploading abstracts. The following information for individual and panel proposals is requested:

  • Name
  • Email
  • Affiliation
  • 150-word bio or personal narrative
  • Paper or panel title
  • 300-word panel (if applicable) and individual paper abstracts

Questions about the conference or abstract submission process? Email us.


  • Abstracts due: Friday, December 15, 2023
  • Acceptances announced: March 15, 2024
  • Schedule announced and conference registration (for non-presenters) opens: March 1, 2024

Program Committee

  • Justin Brown, Yale University
  • Ryan Darr, Yale University
  • Rebecca Dirksen, Indiana University
  • Tao Leigh Goffe, Hunter College, City University of New York
  • Clifton Granby, Yale University
  • Ayodeji Ogunnaike, University of Virginia
  • Solimar Otero, Indiana University

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