Katharine Gerbner

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Research interests

My research explores the religious dimensions of race, authority, and freedom in the early modern Atlantic world. My book, "Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World" (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), shows how debates between slave-owners, black Christians, and missionaries transformed the practice of Protestantism and the language of race in the early modern Atlantic World. I am currently at work on a few different projects. One, entitled “Constructing Religion, Defining Crime,” examines how some non-European religions – particularly those that were practiced under slavery – have been excluded from the category of religion and criminalized over the past three centuries. A related project investigates the religious and medical practices of enslaved Africans in the Caribbean, paying particular attention to obeah. I am interested in how Afro-Caribbean ideas about healing, prayer, and worship influenced the construction of European categories such as religion and medicine. I have also been working on an article about Missionaries and Maroons, which takes a micro-historical look at how and why maroon leaders sought to create alliances with Christian missionaries.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Research Interest Keywords

  • Religion
  • Early America
  • Atlantic World
  • Race
  • Slavery
  • Caribbean
  • Missions
  • Empire


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