Kelsey Moss is a doctoral candidate in the Religion in the Americas subfield with concentrations in African American and Latin American Studies. Her research focuses on encounter and processes of religious and racial change in the colonial Americas and Atlantic World.
Kelsey’s dissertation takes a hemispheric approach to analyze and compare the early modern discourses of black spiritual incapacity that abounded throughout the colonial Americas, and assesses their influence on the processes by which African slaves were evangelized and converted to Christianity. Through archival research and analysis of missionary texts from select locations in the Spanish, Portuguese and British colonial Americas, the dissertation argues that early modern Europeans made evaluations of the salvific potential of enslaved Africans as they constructed hierarchies of the perceived spiritual capacities of the world’s people. It further contends, that the wide range of discourses and practices that relegated blacks to an inferior spiritual status amounted to a de facto if not de jure spiritual racialization that had a profound impact on the structure of colonial religious, social and economic relationships and structures.
Her wider research and teaching interests include: African American and African Diaspora Studies; American Religious History; the African experience in Latin America; Afro-Diasporic Religions; Native Spiritualities; Religion and the Natural World; Religion and Social Change; and the role of religion in the development of individual and communal identities.
Prior to entering the program, Kelsey received a B.A. in African & African-American Studies with a focus on Religion and Society from Stanford University with an honors thesis exploring the state of the Black Church and Liberation Theology in the post-Civil Rights Era. She has also received an M.A. in Religion from Princeton University.