Marcus L. Harvey, PhD

HUM 414 Coordinator and Associate Professor of Religious Studies

Contact Information

  • 828-251-6177
  • 141 Zageir Hall

Office Hours

  • Monday 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
  • Wednesday 12:45 pm - 1:45 pm
  • Note:


Marcus L. Harvey joined the religious studies faculty at UNC Asheville in 2013. In broad terms, his research interests encompass the knowledge systems of indigenous West Africa and its diasporas. Moving beyond the regnant assumption that black religion in North America is best situated theoretically along the spectrum of Anglophone Christianity in the Western Hemisphere, Dr. Harvey investigates the relationship between African epistemology and black religious hermeneutics in connection with the black literary tradition. He is currently developing a book manuscript that builds upon research conducted in Accra, Kumasi, Larteh, Kwahu, Ananse Village, Koforidua, Asikuma, Mampong, Cape Coast, and other areas of Ghana as well as in the Nigerian cities of Lagos, Ilé-Ifẹ̀, and Modakeke.

Dr. Harvey's cardinal teaching goals involve equipping students to critically engage "religion" around three principal themes: 1) "religion" as a dynamic artifact of transgeographic, heterogeneous, and often contested cultural processes; 2) "religion" as fundamental orientation; and 3) "religion" as knowledge construction.

Dr. Harvey’s intellectual work also engages the broader public sphere. He is co-creator and co-host (along with Dr. Darin Waters) of The Waters and Harvey Show, a radio show and podcast that promotes deeper understanding of the vexing issues shaping the experiences of marginalized communities in the United States and elsewhere whose stories often go untold.


  • PhD, Emory University, 2012

 Courses Taught

  • RELS 178: Religion and Film (First-Year Colloquium) (Honors and Non-Honors)
  • RELS 200: Introduction to the Study of Religion
  • RELS 373: African Religions in the Americas and the Caribbean
  • RELS 373: Zora Neale Hurston and Black Religion: Theoretical Foundations
  • RELS 374: Religion and the Paranormal in the Contemporary American Imagination (Honors)
  • RELS 398: Theory and Method in the Study of Religion
  • RELS 492: Senior Seminar in Religious Studies: Religion and African American Literature
  • HUM 414: Critical Perspectives on Contemporaneity

This faculty member teaches in UNC Asheville's Humanities Program.

 Research and Teaching Interests

  • Cultures and Knowledge Systems of Indigenous West Africa and Africa's Diasporas
  • African and African Atlantic Histories
  • Transdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Africana Religions
  • Phenomenology of Religion
  • History of Religions
  • Religion and Performance Theory
  • Literature and Religion
  • Religion and Comparative Theory
  • Ritual Studies
  • Folklore Studies
  • Science and Religion

 Scholarly Publications and Presentations

  • “Gnostic and Epistemological Themes in African Traditional Religion." In The Palgrave Handbook of African Traditional Religion, edited by Ibigbolade Aderibigbe and Toyin Falola. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, Forthcoming.
  • "From the Sacred Sound of the Conch Shell to the Cemetery Dance: Reimagining an Africana Festival Created in a Southern Appalachian City." Special Issue, Race and Religion: New Approaches to African American Religions, Religions 8, no. 8 (2017): 1-30. doi: 10.3390/rel8080149.
  • “We Come as Friends,” review of We Come as Friends by Hubert Sauper. Religious Studies Review 43, no. 1 (March 2017): 74.
  • “’Hard Skies’ and Bottomless Questions: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Epistemological ‘Opacity’ in Black Religious Experience.” Journal of Africana Religions 4, no. 2 (2016): 186-214.
  • "Deity from a Python, Earth from a Hen, Humankind from Mystery: Narrative and Knowledge in Yorùbá Cosmology" ("Divindade de uma Píton, Terra de uma Galinha, Humanidade do Mistério: Narrativa e Conhecimento na Cosmologia Iorubá"). Estudos de Religião 29, no. 2 (2015): 237-270.
  • "Medial Deities and Relational Meanings: Tracing Elements of an Akan Grammar of Knowing." Journal of Africana Religions 3, no. 4 (2015): 397-441.
  • "Engaging the Òrìṣà: An Exploration of the Yorùbá Concepts of Ìbejì and Olókun as Theoretical Principles in Black Theology." Black TheologyAn International Journal 6, no. 1 (2008): 61-82.
  • “’Suffering as Signal:’ Reflections on the Coronavirus Pandemic and Dagara Cosmology.” Paper Presented at the American Academy of Religion Virtual Annual Meeting, November 29-December 10, 2020. (Roundtable, Invited)
  • “What It Means to ‘Know’ in African Traditional Religion.” Paper Presented at the Nimi Wariboko Conference on Ethics, Economy, Society, Religion and African Social Traditions, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, November 21, 2020. (Invited)
  • “Knowing the Gods in Public: Akan Religion and the Question of Sociopolitical Relevance.” Paper Presented at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Symposium on Indigeneity, Religion, and Remaking the Public Sphere, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, December 5-6, 2019. (Invited)
  • “’It Is a Real Person Who Takes Bitter Medicine:’ Charting Components of a Trans-Diasporic Restorative Theory of Knowledge.” Paper Presented at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, November 17-20, 2018.
  • “The ‘Speech of Silence’ and Other Decolonizing Concepts: New Theoretical Horizons in Malidoma Somé’s Of Water and the Spirit.” Paper Presented at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, November 18-21, 2017.
  • "'If You Want to See Everything, You Become Blind': Phenomenological Epistemology as an Approach to the Study of Autochthonous African Spiritual Cultures." Paper Presented at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX, November 19-22, 2016.
  • “Ears to the Conch Shell, Feet to the Ancestors: Reimagining Asheville’s Goombay Festival.” Paper Presented at the African Americans in Western North Carolina Conference, Asheville, NC, October 22-23, 2015. (Invited)
  • “’Hard Skies’ and Bottomless Questions: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and Epistemological ‘Opacity’ in Black Religious Experience.” Paper Presented at the National Association of African American Studies Conference, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, February 9-14, 2015.
  • “Yorùbá Cosmology as Epistemology and Cultural Matrix.” Paper Presented at the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for College and University Teachers (Theme: Black Aesthetics and African Centered Cultural Expressions: Sacred Systems in the Nexus between Cultural Studies, Religion and Philosophy), Emory University, Atlanta, GA, July 13-August 1, 2014. (Invited)
  • “Approaching Yorùbá Epistemology: A Heuristic Investigation.” Paper Presented at the Òrìṣà World Congress, Ọbáfẹ́mi Awólọ́wọ̀ University, Ilé-Ifẹ̀, Nigeria, July 24-28, 2013. (Invited)
  • "Engaging the Òrìṣà: An Exploration of the Yorùbá Concepts of Ìbejì and Olókun as Theoretical Principles in Black Theology." Paper Presented at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, November 18-21, 2006.