The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Ashley Garner awarded inaugural Charles H. Page scholarship

Ashley Garner

Ashley Garner is the inaugural recipient of the Charles H. Page Scholarship for the best theory paper written by a graduate student in the past year.  The annual award is named after the former chair and distinguished faculty member of the UMass sociology department.

Garner’s paper, titled “Black Feminist Piety,” is a bold and original theoretical intervention in the sociologies of religion, gender, and race. The paper critiques the pervasive disregard and misrecognition of Black women’s religious thought and practice, that of African American Sunni Muslim women in particular. According to Garner, they are illegible to critical theorists, such as Habermas, who insist upon a strictly secular lens and Western feminists who presume the religious to be antifeminist. To the extent they are seen, in the post-9/11 world, Black Muslim women are reduced to their relations with immigrant Muslims, viewed as more legitimate and authentic, or their “agency,” narrowly defined as resistance to religious practice.  With the concept of Black feminist piety, Garner affirms and extends Patricia Hill Collins’s groundbreaking Black Feminist Thought, taking Black Muslim women seriously as knowledge producers and adding a religious axis to intersectionality theory. Black feminist piety aims to recognize agency that manifests in and through religious practice, and not necessarily and only in its subversion. Providing a new perspective on intersecting oppressions, Garner illustrates the usefulness of the concept through novel discussions of patriarchy, conversion, and (non)citizenship.

The strongest paper of a strong pool of submissions, “Black Feminist Piety” signals the promising start to the careers of a concept and its author.

The Page Scholarship Prize selection committee:
Moon-Kie Jung, Agustin Lao Montes, Robert Zussman, and Graduate Program Director Millie Thayer