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I wrote an article “Postcolonial Theology and Intersectionality” for a special issue for the Journal of Ecumenical Studies with guest editors Edwin David Aponte & Laura Levitt. It is a nice collection of wonderful articles on “Religion and Race in the Era of Trumpism.”
It is especially wonderful to read Minjung Noh‘s piece who is an up-and-coming young Korean woman scholar. So proud of her work.
Current Issue Article Abstracts
Fall 2020 Vol. 55.4
• • • • • • • •
Special Issue: Reflections on Religion and Race in the Era of Trumpism
Guest Editors: Edwin David Aponte and Laura Levitt
Edwin David Aponte
The following essays had earlier expressions in two biennial meetings of the Society of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in 2017 and 2019, and, as might be expected, all examine aspects of the multilayered and often complex relationships between and among race, ethnicity, and religion. Such exploration is not solely an intellectual exercise, but it is increasingly a necessary thing to do–not only for deeper understanding of these issues themselves but also for addressing many of the moral and public policy challenges of our times. Of course, exploring the connections and intersections among concepts of race, ethnicity, and religion and spirituality within particular contexts of the United States is important in its own right, but such study also addresses the concerns of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies for ongoing and meaningful dialogue among diverse religious traditions.
This essay is a modified version of a talk I gave in the Fall of 2017 at the Biennial Conference of the Society of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, Nashville, Tennessee. I spoke these words not long after white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville, Virginia. The theme of the gathering was “Revolutionary Love.” I was invited to address this issue after I wrote a blog post raising questions about revolutionary love and the categories of race, religion, and ethnicity. Specifically, I wrote about these matters for scholars of religion engaged with the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Returning to these remarks in the Winter of 2020, the urgency of my concerns could not be any more relevant. What follows is, more or less, what I wrote then. My hope is that these reflections will resonate with some of the powerful words of a younger generation of scholars’ works on issues of religion, ethnicity, and race—versions of some of the papers that were presented at the association’s preconference biennial meeting at the AAR in San Diego, California, in November, 2019.
This essay attends to contemporary Oriental Orthodox solidarity as a postcolonial condition and to the possibilities of communal belonging along different planes of theopolitical intelligibility. Oriental Orthodox debates around what I call the “social hierarchy of theological truth” are mired in colonial histories of civilizational order and the production of the collective experience of Byzantine and Islamic subjugation. The project of making Oriental Orthodox experience visible in the contemporary moment as perennial persecution and perpetual subjugation hinders analysis of the workings of this neo-imperial system that utilizes certain narratives of Oriental Orthodox while precluding the collective’s historicity and its enmeshment in other radical frameworks of solidarity. I argue that contemporary Oriental Orthodox experience must be historicized as a means to understand the operations of the complex and changing discursive processes by which such an identity is ascribed, debated, or embraced. By historicizing the identity that such a process has produced, I ethnographically trace how such processes are unmarked in the everyday interactions of Oriental Orthodox in the United States—in the ways history, theology, and collective memory are debated and politicized in the present.
Surrogate Flesh: Race, Redemption, and the Cultural Production of Fetal Personhood
Amaryah Shaye Armstrong
The growth of fetal personhood laws has led to an increase in carceral responses to the loss of a fetus. This carceral response has had devastating racial effects. This essay situates the carceral management of reproduction within a theological mode of production and reproduction, examining how fetal personhood is culturally produced and reproduced within the context of a theology of Christian redemption and its supersessionist sense of peoplehood. I begin by situating fetal personhood within a larger discussion of Christian peoplehood and chosenness, focusing on peoplehood’s relationship to political theological crises of legitimacy. In so doing, I recast political theology in light of such Black scholars as Cedric Robinson and Sylvia Wynter, showing how theological resolutions of the crises of legitimacy, meaning, and value depend on the imposition of order—ordering existence and epistemology—against the threat that Black flesh poses to the reproduction of Christian racial distinctiveness and redemption. Second, I consider how white governance supersedes Christian peoplehood as the redemptive theologic of racial modernity that legitimates claims of fetal personhood, by showing how the implicitly white conception of the human that is assumed by fetal personhood arguments recapitulates a notion of theological descent. Theological descent necessitates the proper reproduction of order through racial enforcement in order to secure human redemption. Finally, I draw on the insights of my analysis to perform a political theological reading of anti-abortion advertisements and billboards specifically figuring Black children as “an endangered species,” showing how these ads make the fetus and not Black lives the victim of this endangerment. I argue that these are personhood arguments, and, as such, they deploy a Christian redemptive imagination to conjure and capture the living image of Black children, who are made into surrogates for the anti-abortion movements’ redemptive politics. As such, they attribute blameworthiness to Black wombs and use systemic racism to produce a blameless fetus. Racism becomes a way of re-blaming Black people for racism. In thinking of race and reproduction together in an examination of the cultural production of fetal personhood, I show how the larger political theological attempt to impose order and governance on Black flesh serves to resolve crises of existential and epistemological meaning and value. The legitimation of carceral enforcement in response to abortion and Black reproduction is thus a means of preserving an anti-Black political theology. This theological redemptive order, in turn, is set over and against the disorder that Black flesh and sexuality represent.
This essay explores the multiple layers of aesthetics in Korean Protestant Christianity, moving between South Korea, the United States, and Haiti, where Korean Protestant Christians began establishing missions in 1992. Following the transnational itineraries of Korean and Korean American Protestants, I will identify two distinct but not mutually exclusive orientations of their aesthetics. The first is an aesthetics of progress, which has been prominent since the inception of Protestant Christianity in Korea. The second is an aesthetics of Koreanness.
This essay examines the theological and socioeconomic impacts of the creation of the Jamaican marijuana industry on the Rastafari faith in Jamaica and, mainly, how Rastas are navigating the forces of governmental regulation and global capitalist control of the holy herb. I argue that the scope of the Rastafari reactions to the dominating force of cannabis legislation in Jamaica is fundamentally a function of their longstanding precarious status in Jamaica. Rastas’ rejection of the colonial and postcolonial state, proclamation of black redemption, deification of Emperor Haile Selassie I, and sacralization of marijuana brought them into conflict with the state, thereby reinforcing their liminal position as an “other.” Throughout this essay, I draw upon the themes of postcolonial theory to understand the history of colonial and postcolonial legislative repression of Rastafari and how Rastas have deployed strategies of resistance and survival within and against the Jamaican society.
Postcolonial Theology and Intersectionality
Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Many two-thirds-world Christian theologians have turned to postcolonial theory as a more indigenous theoretical way of addressing the sinful effects of colonialism in its various manifestations. These theologians employ, in particular, the postcolonial concept of hybridity as a way of accounting for the complicated political agency of the “subaltern” (oppressed) subject. This concept emerged out of the postcolonial experience to describe the ways in which subaltern subjects sometimes embrace and confront the “master’s tools” when constructing new postcolonial identities. What could look like support of the oppressor may, in fact, be a complex process of formulating and activating subaltern agency in relation to colonialist as well as indigenous cultural practices, languages, attitudes, and religions. This essay argues that these are forms of intersectional theologizing.
Reciprocal Inclusivism: A Methodology for Understanding the Faiths of the World
Christopher C. Knight
Based on John Hick’s pluralistic hypothesis that Reality is ineffable and beyond adequate comprehension, but the presence of this Reality can be experienced through the linguistic systems and spiritual practices offered by the various religious traditions, this essay explores the place of such a hypothesis in the face of contemporary understandings of religious pluralism, in particular perennialist assumptions about religious differences. The essay aims to place the criticisms and strengths of traditional perennialism in the context of the thinking of two schools of theological thought. The first is embodied in the work of Vladimir Lossky (1903–58) whose understanding of apophaticism is based on patristic Christian insights and remains influential within the Eastern Orthodox Church. The second is the school of thought associated with the names of René Guénon (1886–1951) and Fritzjof Schuon (1907–98), which is referred to sometimes as the Traditionalist school or as perennial traditionalism.