Field Research Grants

Raffaella Taylor-Seymour, CHD


My dissertation explores negotiations surrounding the morality of fertility, sexuality, and ancestry in contemporary Zimbabwe. In light of the country’s history of settler colonialism and recent economic, social, and political crises, I consider how young Zimbabweans are reconceiving the life course and reimagining disrupted futures. In particular, I examine how Pentecostal discursive practices, teachings, and modes of being in the world enable the contestation of traditional conceptions of personhood and the forging of new kinds of ethical selves. One strand of my research takes up these issues in relation to the experiences of queer Zimbabweans in Pentecostal churches. Over the past decade, the predicament of queer Africans has increasingly made global headlines. The emergence of political homophobia has furthermore been closely associated with the global expansion of Pentecostal Christianity. However, many queer Zimbabweans are active and ardent members of Pentecostal churches who practice their faith, socialize, and pray in the very institutions that appear to propagate their oppression. My project seeks to explore ethnographically why queer Zimbabweans find Pentecostalism an appealing branch of Christianity, and how they reconcile their sexual identities with their churches’ teachings on homosexuality. Broadly, I argue that the experiences of queer Zimbabweans in the present moment cannot be understood apart from histories of colonization, the country’s multi-faceted crisis, and long-standing debates surrounding fertility, personhood, and morality. 

Raffaella Taylor-SeymourRaffaella Taylor-Seymour is a UK-US Fulbright Scholar and PhD Candidate in the Departments of Anthropology and Comparative Human Development at the University of Chicago. Her research examines the politics of fertility, sexuality, and ancestry in Pentecostal communities in contemporary Zimbabwe. She received her undergraduate degree in Archaeology & Anthropology from King’s College, University of Cambridge, and received the inaugural Diamond Family Foundation-Fulbright Award for research in Africa. Her research has been funded by the Committee on African Studies and the Pozen Family Center for Human rights at the University of Chicago.