Joseph Witt’s research, teaching, and public engagement center on religious studies and analyses of community encounters with environmental issues such as resource extraction, pollution, climate change, and food insecurity. His first major project investigated the multiple ways that religious worldviews shaped attitudes toward mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, and, conversely, how debates about mountaintop removal also shaped new religious responses. The major findings from this work were published in his first book, Religion and Resistance in Appalachia: Faith and the Fight against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining (University of Kentucky Press, 2016). This work also situated resistance to mountaintop removal within larger histories of North American environmental activism. From 2011 to 2022, Witt served as Assistant (and later Associate) Professor of Religion at Mississippi State University. There, he engaged with another long-term research project focused on the efforts of Vietnamese American fishermen and their families on the Gulf Coast to respond to challenges such as Hurricane Katrina, the BP Oil Spill, and ongoing threats of biodiversity loss and sea level rise. Influenced by his experiences in Appalachia, Witt also helped to develop new approaches to place-based and community-engaged teaching in Mississippi, examining the connections between racial inequalities, agricultural history, and food insecurity. Witt continues this research program at the University of Tennessee, focusing on local examples of environmental injustice and resilience while developing engaged pedagogies to help facilitate long-lasting connections between students and community stakeholders in East Tennessee.
- PhD, Religious Studies, University of Florida, 2011
- MA, Religious Studies, University of Florida, 2006
- BA, Philosophy and Religion, Hendrix College, 2003