Doug Bafford is a doctoral student in anthropology at Brandeis University. His research poses questions within the anthropology of religion, particularly how people negotiate alternative ways of knowing and how the religious sphere carries over into other dimensions of social life. Most recently, his dissertation project concerns the adoption of young-earth creationism by South African Baptist congregations. Employing participatory, linguistic, and historical methods, his work considers the transformations creationism undergoes in a cultural context distanced from its historical roots and, especially, how creationism mediates contested notions of modernity and epistemological authority. This research foregrounds the means through which science and religion are reconciled—and often redefined—by Christians, as well as their interlocutors, in the missionary field.
Prior to beginning doctoral studies, he received a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for which he conducted ethnographic research into religious practices of local Muslim students of several denominations. One part of this project considered how these youths integrated Islamic theology with the heavily secular science-based curriculum to which they were exposed in the classroom. In 2013 he arrived at Brandeis, where he completed a master’s degree with a thesis on the discursive work enacted at Kentucky’s Creation Museum, a young-earth- creationist organization dedicated to spreading a conservative, evangelical vision of Christianity.
Alongside ethnographic research, he currently teaches two writing courses annually as part of the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program, an intensive nine-month course of study designed to prepare motivated students who have faced socioeconomic or personal challenges to succeed at the university. His teaching combines individualized writing instruction with seminar discussions that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries to focus on a different theme each semester. This curriculum incorporates not only anthropological material but also scholarship from sociolinguistics, literary studies, philosophy, and art.