Kelly E. Hayes is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis. She earned a Ph.D. in the History of Religions at the University of Chicago and has been conducting field research on religion in Brazil since 1997. Her book Holy Harlots: Femininity, Sexuality, and Black Magic in Brazil (University of California Press, 2011) examines devotion to the Afro-Brazilian spirit entity Pomba Gira, a popular but controversial figure typically depicted as the spirit of a prostitute or "woman of ill repute." Her photo essay about Pomba Gira and her devotees, "Spirits of Shadows and Light," appeared in Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies (6: 2014). Other publications include scholarly articles on topics ranging from women in Brazilian religions to debates about creationism versus evolution in the United States. She has received fellowships from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is a two-time Fulbright Scholar. Slaves of the Saints , her documentary film about Afro-Brazilian religions, produced with Catherine Crouch and distributed as a companion to Holy Harlots, premiered at the Rio International film festival and went on to screen at festivals worldwide.
Hayes's most recent research project focuses on the new Brazilian religion called Valley of the Dawn. Her article “ Intergalactic Space-Time Travelers: Envisioning Globalization in Brazil's Valley of the Dawn,” (Nova Religio, May 2013) was a runner up for the Thomas Robbins Award for Excellence in the Study of New Religions.