Staff Profile

photograph

Professor Robert Beckford

Professor of Theology and Culture in the African Diaspora

School: School of Humanities

Campus: Canterbury

Tel: 01227 922262

Profile summary

PhD University of Birmingham 

With particular research interests in African and African Caribbean historyReligion and Popular Culture, Professor Beckford interrogates the intersection(s) of social history, religious experience and cultural politics.  

Professor Beckford researches in written, visual and audio texts and has won numerous awards, including a BAFTA, a Jamaican Diaspora Award and a Race in the Media Award. He has presented over twenty television documentaries on commercial television stations, including Channel 4, BBC 2, BBC4 and Discovery USA.  His current research (below) intersects liberation theology and gospel music and comprises of a monograph, studio album and BBC Radio documentary.

Professor Beckford developed the BA in Theology taught in Woolwich, London.  http://www.canterbury.ac.uk/arts-and-humanities/school-of-humanities/theology/christ-college-woolwich.aspx

Visiting Professor, Kings College, University of London: 

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/depts/trs/people/staff/associates/visit/Beckford.aspx

Jobs.ac.uk interview: 

http://www.jobs.ac.uk/careers-advice/academic-case-studies/1902/reader-in-theology-and-society-at-canterbury-christ-church-university/

Guardian interview: 

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2005/may/17/highereducationprofile.academicexpert

Research and knowledge exchange

1. Theomusicology:  The Jamaican Bible Remix Project

My current research is a practice-based, black British postcolonial theomusiciology.  By triangulating samples of [1] the audio from the Jamaican New Testament, [2] critical themes from black liberation theology and [3] genres from the black British urban music canon, I create a new gospel music sub-genre or 'social gospel music.'  This project is a partnership with the Bible Society of Great Britain and 5AM Records, Birmingham.  This research (album) is free to download at: https://www.canterbury.ac.uk/arts-and-humanities/school-of-humanities/religion-philosophy-and-ethics/research/jamaican-bible-remix.aspx  For an academic review of the album, see Black Theology an International Journal, Vol 16, 2018. P.184-86.https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/yblt20?open=16&year=2018&repitition=0#vol_16_2018

Critical reflection on this theomusical praxis takes place in a variety of texts including -

Robert Beckford, Sonic Salvation: Decolonising Black British Gospel Music. London: Bloomsbury 2021 (forthcoming)

‘Jamaican Bible Remixed.’  BBC World Service, 2017. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p059vrxf

'Is David Starkey Right, or has the Jamaican Bible Movement lost its mind?' In L. Palmer and K. Andrews (eds), Blackness in Britain.  London: Routlege, 2016.

2. Church's Response to Austerity

A three-year, ESRC funded research project in collaboration with Coventry University. See https://www.coventry.ac.uk/research/research-directories/current-projects/2018/life-on-the-breadline-christianity-poverty-and-politics-in-the-21st-/  This project is underscored by previous documentary research on immigrant churches and social justice. See 'The Battle For Christianity' (BBC1,2016) https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b075634m 

3.Theopolitical Drama: 'Jesus Piece'  BBC Radio Drama Series

'Jesus Piece' is a four-part radio detective drama series for BBC Radio (regions) for 2017.  Set in Pentecostal church, the protagonist, an activist preacher, is forced to solve a murder in his community, after the police declare him the prime suspect.  The project is a collaboration with BBC Regions. See  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p056fncj  It is based on an earlier drama project developed with playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah for BBC Radio 3 in 2013. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01d0vb

Teaching and subject expertise

Postcolonial Theologies 

Theology and Urban Cultures 

Theology and Documentary Film Practice

External activities

Invited Lectures

John Collins Lecture, Oriel College, Oxford, November 2017.

Christian Tropes in Popular Culture, Worcester College, Oxford May 2018

Lecture Series

F.D. Maurice Lectures in Spring 2018, Kings College, London. 'Doing Theology in the Age of Black Lives Matter.'

Publications and research outputs

Music

Jamaican Bible Remix, 5AM Records. January 2017.

Books 

Beckford, R. (2014) Documentary as Exorcism: Resisting the Bewitchment of Colonial Christianity. London: Bloomsbury.

Beckford, R. (2006) Jesus Dub: Theology, Music and Social Change. London: Routledge.

Beckford, R  (2004) God and the Gangs: An Urban Toolkit for Those Who Won't Be Bought Out, Sold Out or Scared Out. London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

Beckford, R. (2003) God of the Rhatid: Redeeming Rage. London: Darton, Longman and Todd

Beckford, R. (2000) Dread and Pentecostal: A Political Theology for the Black Church in Britain. London: SPCK.

Beckford, R. (1998) Jesus is Dread: Black Theology and Black Culture in Britain. London: Darton, Longman and Todd.

Television Documentaries (select)

Beckford, R. (2016), The Battle for Christianity, BBC1

Beckford, R. (2014), Seven Wonders of Brazil, BBC2.

Beckford, R. (2014),  Easter?  BBC iWonder.

Beckford, R. (2014), Series consultant, A Very British Mission (Lent 4Thoughs) Channel 4.

Beckford, R. (2010), God Bless You Barack Obama: Barak Obama and Religion, BBC2.

Beckford, R. (2010), The Bible A History: Revelation, The Final Judgment, Channel 4.

Beckford, R. (2009), The Dark Ages (programme 3) The History of Christianity, Channel 4.

Beckford, R. (2008), The Secrets of the Twelve Disciples, Channel 4.

Beckford, R. (2008), The Nativity Decoded, Channel 4.

Beckford, R. (2007), The Hidden Story of Jesus, Channel 4.

Beckford, R. (2007), Hidden Jerusalem, Discovery USA.

Beckford, R. (2007), The Great African Scandal, Channel 4.

Radio Documentaries (select)

Doping, Diving and God (BBC World Service, 2016)

The divinity of Haile Selassie (BBC World Service, 2014)

With Kwame Kwei-Armah, (drama) Father Son and Holy Ghost (BBC Radio 3, 2013)

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Last edited: 05/12/2017 04:33:00