African American Studies
The University of Houston
629 Agnes Arnold Hall
Houston, TX 77204-3303
Kameelah L. Martin
- PhD Florida State University, African American Literature & Folklore (2006)
- MA University of California Los Angeles, Afro-American Studies (2003)
- BA Georgia Southern University, English/Africana Studies (2000)
My research explores the lore cycle of the conjure woman, or black priestess, as an archetype in literature and visual texts. Currently under consideration with an academic press, my manuscript Conjuring Moments and Other Such Hoodoo: African American Women and Spirit Work engages how African American authors have shifted, recycled, and reinvented the conjure woman figure primarily in twentieth century fiction. I develop a new vocabulary and framework (conjuring moments) with which to articulate a critical discourse surrounding the black priestess and the use of African-centered cosmologies as a trope in African American literature. I also explore the symbiotic relationship between the conjure tradition and blues music, drawing a parallel between the formulaic structure of classic twelve-bar blues and the narrative structure of conjuring fiction such as Arthur Flowers’s Another Good Loving Blues (1992) and J.J. Phillips’s Mojo Hand: An Orphic Tale (1966).My year in residence at the University of Houston is dedicated to the completion of a second book project, Envisioning Voodoo: African Diasporic Religion in the Popular Imagination, which explores the treatment of the priestess in American visual media. In Envisioning Voodoo I deconstruct representations of black women and voodoo in visual media created and produced in the United States, between 1934-2009, to critically evaluate what affect the inscription of African ritual cosmologies—what I am terming a voodoo aesthetic—has on the identity and perception of Africana women. I am specifically interested in how American popular culture reflects a discourse of otherness I attribute to early American attitudes toward Haiti and its national religion.
Other areas of interest include the novels of Tina McElroy Ansa, Toni Morrison, Geechee/Gullah heritage and culture, black women and the blues tradition, and African American genealogical research. I am member of the American Studies Association, National Council for Black Studies, College Language Association, and the African American Historical and Genealogical Society.
- “Disney’s Tia Dalma: A Critical Interrogation of the ‘Imagineered’ Priestess.” Black Women, Gender, and Families. Forthcoming Spring 2012.
- “Rethinking Ishmael Reed: Neo-Hoodoo Womanist Text?” On the Aesthetic Legacy of Ishmael Reed: Contemporary Reassessments. Eds. Paul Kareem Tayyar and Sämi Ludwig. Huntington Beach, CA: World Parade Books, forthcoming 2011.
- “Charles W. Chesnutt and the Legacy of The Conjure Woman.” Charles Waddell Chesnutt: Placing A Stamp on America. Ed. Mary B. Zeigler. Spec. issue of Studies in the Literary Imagination. 43.2 (Fall 2010): 1-16.
- “Rethinking Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo: Neo-Hoodoo Womanist Text?” College Language Association Journal 52.2 (Dec. 2008) 111-131.
- “Introduction to the Special Issue.” Serving the Spirits: Women and Voodoo in Literature and Popular Culture. Eds. Kim Wells and Kameelah Martin Samuel. Spec. issue of Women Writers (Aug. 2008). <http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/jpr_interview.html >.
- “Women and Voodoo: A Conversation with Jewell Parker Rhodes.” Serving the Spirits: Women and Voodoo in Literature and Popular Culture. Eds. Kim Wells and Kameelah Martin Samuel. Spec. issue of Women Writers (Aug. 2008). <http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/jpr_interview.html >.
- “Ansa, Tina McElroy.” African American National Biography. Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2008. 50-51.
- “Nunez, Elizabeth.” African American National Biography. Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2008. 172-173.
- “Hip Hop Soap Box: Pullin’ tha Race Card in Mos Def’s ‘Mr. Nigga’.” Revolutions of the Mind: Cultural Studies in the African Diaspora Project. Edited by Dionne Bennett and Candace Moore. Los Angeles: University of California Los Angeles CAAS Publications, 2003: 111-115
AAS 3394: Women and Voodoo. Offered in Spring 2012.
The class is designed to both introduce students to African-based religion practiced in the Americas and to exam the role of women in such religions. It will engage current research, fiction, and other critical resources to assess how gender and spirituality function together. It will also consider such topics as representation and body politics; gender performance and the negotiation of power; spiritual authority and religious syncretization; as well as sexuality, blues music, and ancestral presence.