Sonya Maria Johnson
Academic Specialties and Other Interests
I’m a sociocultural anthropologist, and my specialty is African descendants’ religious lifeways, (the everyday practices people use to connect with their understanding of the sacred) throughout the Americas, with a focus on eastern Cuba. Anthropologists study the lifeways of humans in various ways, and I research how people make meaning out of their everyday lives by using their history and understandings about sacred lifeways to inform their identity. I teach in the Department of Critical Identity Studies and include content from religious studies, history, anthropology, and African diasporal studies, (the scattering of African descendants throughout the globe), and ethnic studies in my courses.
I was born and raised in Colorado and moved to Michigan for graduate school before landing in Beloit. Home for me is Beloit and where my family members live, mainly in Colorado and Georgia. From all my moving about, I’ve learned that the key to transplanting well is knowing what brings you joy and growing that for yourself wherever you are. Four of the many things that bring me joy are learning about humans over space and time, cooking, studying and teaching yoga, and plants, especially trees!
I love teaching at Beloit because the students are compassionate and fearless in trying new ways of thinking and approaching hard things, like crafting more humane ways to engage around social differences. Beloit students are a joy to teach and mentor because they have an artful way of partnering deep care for others with the courage to put their knowledge into action. By relying on their academic content, professional development through Channels and internships, study abroad along with social curricular activities like sports, clubs, or other student organizations, Beloit students and alumni embody what it means to be lifelong learners. I value working with other staff and faculty colleagues to continually craft innovative ways to make this experience happen for every student. I now look forward to making this a reality for you! Welcome to Beloit, and let’s do this together.