Raffaella Taylor-Seymour

Raffaella Taylor-Seymour


PhD, Anthropology & Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago, 2022
MA, Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago, 2017
BA, Archaeology & Anthropology, King’s College, University of Cambridge, 2014


Raffaella Taylor-Seymour is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life and a Lecturer in the Department of Religion at Columbia University. Trained as an anthropologist, her work examines religious life in the context of struggles over gender, sexuality, and the environment in Zimbabwe. Raffaella’s research investigates how people navigate religious landscapes in the wake of colonization, the colonial suppression of ancestors, and the ongoing lives of ancestral spirits in the present. Her first book project, titled Ancestral Intimacies: Queer Spiritualities in Zimbabwe, is an ethnography of the spiritual lives of queer Zimbabweans. The book explores how young queer people draw on the archives of African and Christian metaphysics to reimagine the historical past and articulate novel forms of kinship and religiosity.

At Columbia, Raffaella is pursuing a new research project that explores everyday struggles over the meanings and effects of rainmaking rites against the backdrop of increasing water scarcity in Southern Africa. As part of the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life’s Religion and Climate initiative, this project examines how Southern Africa epistemologies shape responses to environmental catastrophe in the region and how climate change is igniting new metaphysical debates. She has been conducting research in Zimbabwe since 2012 and is deeply committed to building collaborative partnerships with scholars and researchers in Zimbabwe, and welcomes being contacted by anyone who would like to get in touch.

Raffaella holds a joint PhD in Anthropology and Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago, where her doctoral thesis was awarded the Lichtstern Prize for the Best Dissertation in Anthropology, the Association for Feminist Anthropology’s Dissertation Award, and the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. At Chicago, she was a Fulbright Scholar, Martin Marty Junior Fellow in the Divinity School, Residential Fellow at the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality, and Dissertation Fellow at the Center for International Social Science Research. She holds an MA in Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago and a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology from King’s College, University of Cambridge. Before coming to Columbia, she was a Junior Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Oxford, and an affiliate of the Institute of Social & Cultural Anthropology at the University of Oxford.