Ennis B. Edmonds came to Kenyon College in the fall of 2003. Formerly, he taught in sociology and pan African studies and directed the Pan African Studies Program at Barnard College, Columbia University.

His areas of expertise are African Diaspora religions, religion in America and sociology of religion. His research and publication have focused primarily on Rastafari, but also on other religious traditions in the Caribbean. Current research interests include the conversion of Rastas to evangelical Christianity, the Jamaican religious group called Revival Zion and religion in Afro-Caribbean and African American popular culture and literature.

Areas of Expertise

African diaspora religions, religion in America, sociology of religion and Caribbean society and culture.


1993 — Doctor of Philosophy from Drew University

1983 — Master of Arts from Western Evangelical, Jamaica

1981 — Bachelor of Arts from Jamaica Theological Seminary

Courses Recently Taught

The relationship between religion and popular culture in America is multifaceted. Religious themes in popular culture, popular cultural portrayals of American religions, the use of popular cultural forms as vehicles for the expression of religious values, the celebration of religious emotions and the embrace of cultural expressions as forms of religious devotion all contribute to this relationship. This course will explore these facets, looking at a cross-section of Hollywood films, television shows and music videos, various subgenres of popular music, sports, news media and cyberculture. Our study will be guided by academic texts, videos, images and samples of music from several genres. Previous studies in American and/or religious studies is recommended. No prerequisite. Offered every other year.

This course includes brief introductions to four or five major religious traditions, while exploring concepts and categories used in the study of religion, such as sacredness, myth, ritual, religious experience and social dimensions of religion. Traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism and Native American traditions are presented through their classic scriptures and traditional practices. Readings vary among sections but typically include important primary sources on Hindu thought and practice (e.g., the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-gita), Buddhist thought and practice ("The Questions of King Milinda," "The Heart Sutra"), Jewish life and thought (selections from the Hebrew Bible, "The Sayings of the Fathers"), Christian origins (one or more Gospels, selected Pauline letters), Islam (selections from the Qur'an and Sufi mystical poetry), Confucianism (the Analects), Taoism (the Tao Te Ching) and modern expressions of religion (e.g., Martin Buber's "I and Thou"). Many of the primary sources are studied in conjunction with relevant secondary sources (e.g., Rudolf Otto's "The Idea of the Holy," important articles by anthropologists of religion). This counts toward the core course requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every semester.

This course explores the religious history of the United States, with an emphasis on the relationship between religious beliefs/values and broader social and political processes. We first examine the attempt of European immigrants to establish church-state compacts in New England and Virginia, while the middle colonies adopted a more pluralistic approach. Next we survey the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War, looking at the separation of church and state, the growth of religious pluralism and the continued existence of the "Peculiar Institution. We then look at how various social forces shaped religion in the United States from the Civil War to World War II: immigration, urbanization, prejudice and the Social Gospel; expansionism and missions; and modernism and fundamentalism. Finally, we examine the shaping of the American religious landscape from World War II to the present through such forces as religious revitalization, activism for personal and civil rights, new waves of immigration and new communication media. This counts toward the American Religions requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every other fall.

This course explores the contours of the religious expressions of the African diaspora in the Americas. It will survey various Orisha traditions in Cuba, Brazil, the United States and Trinidad and Tobago; Regla de Palo and Abakua in Cuba; Kumina in Jamaica; Vodou in Haiti and the United States; Afro-Christian traditions in Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana; and Rastafari in Jamaica and beyond. The course will pay close attention to the social history of these traditions, their understanding of the universe, their social structure and their rituals and ceremonies. This course provides students with an understanding of the formation and history, major beliefs and ceremonies, leadership and community structure, and social and cultural significance of these religious traditions. This counts toward the American Religions requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.

This course seeks to combine a survey of the history of African-American religious experiences with an exploration of various themes emerging from that history. Special attention will fall on the social forces shaping such experiences; the influence of African-American religious commitments on their cultural, social and political activities; and the diversity of religious experiences and expressions among African Americans. The survey will encompass African religious heritage and its relevance in America; the religious life of slaves on the plantations and rise of independent African-American churches in both the North and the South; the role of African-American churches during Reconstruction and Jim Crow; the emergence of diverse African-American religious traditions and movements in the first half of the 20th Century; African-American religion in the civil rights era; and current trends and issues in African American religion and spirituality. Some of the themes that will occupy our attention include religion and resistance; religion and cultural formation; African American Christian missions; the Back-to-Africa Movement; the aesthetics of worship in African-American churches; class, gender and social mobility; and religion and political activism. We will employ a combination of primary and secondary readings along with audiovisual materials in exploring the development of and the issues in African-American religious experiences. This counts toward the American Religions requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every other fall.

This course is designed to explore the resurgence of religion in the contemporary world. More specifically, we will discuss the phenomenon of "fundamentalism" within the major world religions and its influence on national and international politics. Early in the course, we will discuss the theory of secularization, the recent resurgence of religion in public life, and some literature theorizing the phenomenon of fundamentalism and religious nationalism. We will then turn to the reading and discussing texts on Hindu Nationalism, Buddhism Nationalism, Jewish Fundamentalism, Christian Right in the United States, and Islamism. We will conclude by reflecting on what Mark Juergensmeyer calls “The Logic of Religious Violence” (Terror in the Mind of God). No prerequisite. Offered every fall.

Religious spaces, ideas and practices have exerted a formative influence on the cultures of the people of African descent in the Americas. Nowhere is this more evident than in the musical traditions of the African diaspora. This course will examine the relationship between African diaspora religious expressions and popular music in the United States and the Caribbean. It will focus primarily on the African-American (U.S.) musical traditions, rara from Haiti, calypso from Trinidad and Tobago, and reggae from Jamaica. Special attention will be given to the religious roots of these musical expressions and their social functions in shaping identity and framing religious, cultural and political discourses. Readings, videos/DVDs and CDs, along with presentations and discussions, will assist us in the exploration of the various facets of our topic.This counts as an elective for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.

Emerging from an alienated and marginalized people trapped in the underside of Jamaica's colonial society, the early Rastas drew inspiration from the crowning of Haile Selassie I to sever cultural and psychological ties to the British colonial society that for centuries had disparaged African traditions and sought to inculcate European mores in Jamaicans of African descent. Furthermore, the early Rastas made the newly crowned potentate the symbol of their positive affirmation of Africa as their spiritual and cultural heritage. From its humble beginnings, the Rastafari movement has cemented itself in the religious and cultural life of Jamaica and has extended its influence around the world, garnering adherents in most major cities and in many outposts around the world. This course will expose students to the identity creation of Rastafari via the espousal of a particular view of the world and the fashioning of distinctive lifestyle. It will also explore the internal dynamics of the movement, its spread to disparate parts of the world, and it influence on cultural expressions in the Caribbean and beyond. This course will emphasize close reading, analytical writing and guided discussion. We will make use of videos (video clips) and reggae music to elucidate aspects of the topic. This counts as an elective for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.

This course is designed as a capstone experience in religious studies for majors in the department. Themes of the course will vary according to the instructor. Past themes have included religious autobiography, religion and cinema and new religious movements. Religious studies minors are encouraged to enroll, provided there is space. Non-majors should consult the instructor for permission to register. This counts toward the core course requirement for the major. Offered every fall.

Prerequisite: permission of department chair.

Prerequisite: permission of department chair.

The world around us is teeming with microorganisms, many of which are capable of bringing us to our knees. Despite this looming devastation, most individuals manage to remain healthy, not succumbing to the ever-present pathogens in our environment. For that, we must thank the immune system. Immunology is the study of the cellular and molecular mechanisms employed to protect against infection. The cells and organs of the immune system are many and they play varied important roles in health and development. Every day, components of the immune system must identify harmful invaders and eliminate them, a process that requires critical distinction between host vs. harmful cells. They also provide long-lived protection against recurring infection. In this class, we will embark on a journey through the immune system. We will explore the mechanisms employed by the innate immune system to provide first response to foreign invaders. Additionally, we will dissect the complex processes by which cells of the adaptive immune system recognize and respond to pathogens and establish long-term immunity. Lastly, we will explore the consequences of improper/impaired immune response in a variety of contexts. This counts toward the upper-level cellular/molecular biology requirement for the major. Prerequisite: BIOL 255, 263, 266 or 283.