Damaris Parsitau: Religion, Gender, and Sexuality in Africa

March 14, 2019
Damaris Parsitau, WSRP '19
Dr. Damaris Parsitau, WSRP Research Associate '19

Residents at the CSWR are scholars deeply committed to the study of religion. Below, we spoke with Damaris Parsitau, WSRP '19, on her research in religion, gender, and sexuality in Africa.

CSWR: How has being a CSWR resident affected your HDS experience?

DP: I have enjoyed the sense of community and collegiality within the larger HDS community of scholars. As a result, I have learned and unlearnt a great deal of stuff. I have also been challenged by a community of diverse world class scholars and researchers who generously share their cutting edge research with each other. This has enriched my own scholarship while at the same time gaining different perspectives about other people’s works.

My residency at the CWSR has been a great experience too. Living in a diverse community of scholars and post graduate students doesn’t really leave you the same. I have had deep intellectual conversations with an awesome group of people doing amazing research here. The sense of collegiality and community that I get here has also been refreshing for me.

When I was appointed as a Research Associate, I worried that I would feel lonely and isolated. Coming from Africa where community and hearty laughter defines our social lives, I thought I would not find community. Then I told myself that if I don’t find community, then I would create one. I was wrong! I found a wonderful community of scholars doing amazing things and who get together often to share food and laughter and enjoy listening to each-other’s research projects. Listening to people sharing authentic stories about their life trajectories and lived experiences they have encountered has always been a refreshing thing for me because I get to understand who they are, what drives them, what shapes their research and how they read the world and how those experienced have shaped what they do and how they live out their lives! I have found these interactions quite refreshing and I honestly think that they are the best part of being at the CSWR.

CSWR: How has your experience been as a WSRP Research Associate?

DP: I am honored to be an RA at the WSRP and I don’t really have the words to describe it. But I feel not only privileged to be here but also to be amongst an excellent group of highly intelligent, accomplished women who are also supportive of each other’s works. Every two weeks, we meet to present and share our research progress reports. Each RA then gets to benefits from the thoughtful input of the other RAs who actually read each other’s drafts and point out to new literature or new perspectives in ways that help the RA see her work from a different perspective. Besides the collegiality, the RAs have a synergy, a chemistry together that has made it not just outstanding but also incredibly supportive of each other’s work. The team managing the program--Anne Braude, Tracy Wall and Catherine Brekus--have been supportive and created a warm, welcoming space that allows us to carry out our research with ease. I am grateful for this program and I think its impact on each RAs research and scholarship will be felt for many years to come.

CSWR: What is your current Project for the year?

DP: I am writing my work book project which explores the intersections between religion, gender, and sexuality in an African church. I also taught a course in the fall of 2018 titled Religion, Gender and Sexuality in Africa and I think it was a great experience teaching and engaging post graduate students who taught me so much--as much as they learned from me. So the experience was mutually beneficial and I could say that it was my best class ever.

CSWR: What do you hope to work on next?

DP: I have a number of research projects lined up for me for the next 3 years. I just joined an international group of scholars at the University of Lund in Sweden researching on religion and politics in Africa and another one to carry out surveys of mega churches in selected countries around the world. Both projects are very exciting for me and I look forward to new possibilities.