J. Lorand Matory is the Lawrence Richardson Distinguished Professor of Cultural Anthropology and the Director of the Sacred Arts of the Black Atlantic Project at Duke University.
The author of four books and more than 50 articles and reviews, he is also the executive producer and screenwriter of five documentary films. Choice magazine named his Sex and the Empire That Is No More: Gender and the Politics of Metaphor in Ọyọ Yoruba Religion an outstanding book of the year in 1994, and his Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé won the Herskovits Prize from the African Studies Association for the best book of 2005. In 2003, the President of the United States appointed Professor Matory to the Presidential Advisory Committee on Cultural Property at the US Department of State, where he served until 2011. In 2010, he received the Distinguished Africanist Award from the American Anthropological Association, and, in 2013, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany awarded him the Alexander von Humboldt Prize, a lifetime achievement award and year-long residential fellowship that is one of Europe's highest academic distinctions. Professor Matory was also selected to deliver anthropology’s most prestigious annual address, the Lewis Henry Morgan Lecture, which resulted in the book Stigma and Culture: Last-Place Anxiety in Black America (2015), concerning the competitive and hierarchical nature of ethnic identity-formation. His latest book, The Fetish Revisited: Marx, Freud, and the Gods Black People Make (2018), won the American Academy of Religion’s 2019 Prize for Excellence in the Study of Religion for the Analytical-Descriptive Studies and, in 2020, the Senior Book Prize, which is awarded biennially by the American Ethnological Society (2020).
Professor Matory is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Chicago, and was a tenured full professor at Harvard University until moving to Duke University in 2009. He has conducted four decades of intensive research on the great religions of the Black Atlantic—West African Yoruba religion, West-Central African Kongo religion, Brazilian Candomblé, Cuban Santería/Ocha, and Haitian Vodou. In recognition of his outstanding scholarship, he also served, from 2009 to 2013, as the James P. Marsh Professor at Large at the University of Vermont, one of that University’s highest honors. In conjunction with the University’s Fleming Museum of Art, he curated, in fall 2017, a major museum exhibition on the topic of his latest book. Titled “Spirited Things: Sacred Arts of the Black Atlantic,” it is currently available to museums nationwide. In coordination with the Minneapolis Institute of Art, he is currently in the planning stages of an exhibition contemplating the current movement for social and environmental justice from the perspective of the Afro-Atlantic religions. It is provisionally titled “Transported: Tumult and Transformation in the Arts of the Black Atlantic.”