AAR Member Spotlight

Elyse Ambrose

Elyse Ambrose (they/them) is a blackqueer ethicist, creative, and educator whose research, art, and teaching lie at the intersections of race, sexuality, gender, and spirituality. They currently serve as assistant professor of religious studies and Black study at the University of California, Riverside. Ambrose’s forthcoming book, A Living Archive: Embodying a Black Queer Ethics (T&T Clark, Enquiries in Embodiment, Sexuality, and Social Ethics series) offers a construction of a communal-based ethics of sexuality and grounded in a balckqueer archive. Their most recent photo-sonic exhibition, “Spirit in the Dark Body: Black Queer Expressions of the Im/material,” premiered at the 2019 Annual Meeting at the L Street Fine Arts Gallery (San Diego, CA) and has shown at the House of Mark West (Bronx, NY)— one of the few black queer-owned galleries in the country. Ambrose’s work and commentary have been featured in Feminists Talk Religion (FSR, Inc.), Huffington Post, Vice, and CBC Radio One’s Tapestry, and they have been an AAR member since 2013, currently serving as chair and steering committee member on the “Queer Studies in Religion” and “African Diaspora Religions” program units, respectively.

Why did you get involved with AAR and how is your work aligned?

I got involved in AAR as a seminarian at the Interdenominational Theological Center when the annual meeting was held not far from campus. I felt myself on a journey to discover more about the burning questions I felt forbidden to ask within my religious tradition at the time and to make meaning amid pervasive social justice. Having developed more language since then, I believe my purpose is the same: to discover what is going on (e.g., the descriptive) and what we, in our full humanity, can do to bring about change toward wholeness, equity, and healing.

What is your area of expertise or field of study?

Blackqueer studies in religion and sexual ethics

How has AAR been beneficial to you and your career?

AAR has been somewhat of a family reunion for me, where I get to connect and conspire with colleagues and friends who I knew "back when" and those I have had the pleasure to meet more recently through various networks. This is helpful to my soul and sustainability in academia. AAR is also a space where I am introduced to new conversations and encounter more perspectives, scholarly resources, pedagogical tools, and questions that sharpen me as a scholar, educator, and a creative.

What book is on your nightstand that you're reading or intend to read in the future?

Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry edited by Camille T. Dungy and Black Aliveness, Or A Poetics of Being by Kevin Quashie.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

I love to walk and bike a lot (thanks to NYC!). As a photo-sonic artist, I also enjoy practicing photography and experimenting with sound.

About Member Spotlight

This feature is devoted to profiling AAR members making waves in their departments, institutions, and communities—as well as AAR at large!

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