The Millennial Womanism Project (TMWP) Presents “Millennial Womanists To Watch”
A monthly profile highlighting emerging voices doing incredible work in ministry, the academy and in social justice work.
Name: Rev. Michele Watkins, PhD
Location: San Diego, CA
TMWP: What does it mean to be a millennial woman of African descent in the academy?
Michele Watkins: It means wading through a sea of plantations whether institutionally or ideologically in search of hush harbors to freely and fully express and strengthen my theological mind. Vocationally, it has meant being porous to Spirit. This work as an Africana woman is not done effectively without being discerning. It has meant being set aside to be permeable to the Spirit of the Almighty and the spirit of our ancestors; to present myself as one who wishes to work collaboratively with them to make my community whole.
TMWP: Tell us about your work. What inspired you to do this work?
Michele Watkins: My work has been devoted thinking about the myriad of ways that Africana women’s experiences interrogate theological doctrine in a way that is meaningful in our collective wrestling against white supremacy. The moral witness of the women within my family and ancestral line who have worked creatively to survive the intimate, cultural, and structural violence that was formed to kill them is what inspired me to begin this work and what continues to inspire me today. Their spirits cry out and rejoice in my work.
TMWP: How does your work expand traditional womanist epistemologies?
Michele Watkins: Traditional womanist epistemologies have continued to expose the pitfalls of Western epistemology. For the most part, womanists have left both the church fathers and mothers as well as the dead white guys of the 19th and 20th centuries in their graves while still wrestling with their shadows. My work takes womanist theology forward in its engagement of the whole Christian tradition while in the process enabling our work to become more critical of itself and to eliminate the ways that our work has been haunted by the shadow of both genius and the absurd. My current research has been oriented around how Africana women survivors of violence have used iconoclasm in their spiritual lives to break free from oppressive ideas about who God is in relationship to themselves and their communities. This interest has taken me more into philosophical theology as a way of expanding womanist doctrinal reflection.
TMWP: What can we expect from you within the next year?
Michele Watkins: The inaugural Womanist Theological Colloquy is coming August 2019. The Colloquy will be a space for Womanist theologians to think about how womanist methodology has and can further debunk these notions of ‘dogmatic theology’ or ‘doctrinal uniformity.’
I am working on the publication of my first book tentatively entitled Salvation of the Flesh: Black Women and the Unfinished Work of Christ. This is my central writing goal for 2019.
TMWP: How can people support your work?
Michele Watkins: As information about the Womanist Theological Colloquy in August of 2019 is released, save the date and attend. There have been significant cultural shifts in media and technology that calls for us to reframe our understanding of sources, norms, and principles for reasoning within womanist theology and religious studies broadly. Spaces to have this conversation informally in dialogue and formally in our writing projects are necessary in order to further ground womanism as a formidable tradition within theology and religious studies.
TMWP: Where can they go for more information and updates?
Michele Watkins: Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Millennial Womanism is an emerging concept developed by Liz S Alexander and Melanie C Jones that seeks to draw upon a unique womanist epistemological and methodological framework utilizing a millennial lens.