“Flesh that needs to be loved”: Recovering A Theology of Beauty and Black Life
Issue: Vol 39 No. 2 (2020)
Journal: Religious Studies and Theology
#SayHerName developed in reaction to the increase of police brutality cases that name black women as victims, signifying a pervasive issue throughout North America. By interrogating the legacy of the black female body in North America, this article proposes the possibility of a theology of beauty that considers black women as a primary subject. Theological aesthetics is not only a philosophical concern but represents a starting place for problematizing how black humanity is often excluded from theologies of beauty. Drawing on African American literary traditions and the reflections from black Catholic theologians, this article argues for a theological response to systemic violence against black women’s bodies that articulates black life through theologies of beauty.
Author: Chanelle Robinson
Bostic, Joy R. 2010. “Flesh that Dances: A theology of Sexuality in the Spirit of Toni
Morrison’sBeloved”, in The Embrace of Eros: Bodies, Desires, and Sexuality in Christianity, ed., Margaret D. Kamitsuka. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress.
Brown, Melissa, Rashawn Ray, Ed Summers, and Neil Fraistat. 2017. “#SayHerName: A Case
Study of Intersectional Social Media Activism”, Ethnic and Racial Studies 40 (11): 1831-
Copeland, M. Shawn. 2009. “Knit Together by the Spirit as Church,” in Prophetic Witness:
Catholic Women’s Strategies for Reform, ed., Colleen M. Griffith. Boston, MA: Boston
----------. 2010. Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
----------, 2016.“Memory, #BlackLivesMatter, and Theologians”, Political Theology 17(1): 1-3.
Dadosky, John.2007. “Philosophy for a Theology of Beauty”, Philosophy and Theology19
----------. 2014. The Eclipse and Recovery of Beauty. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1990. The Souls of Black Folks. New York, NY: Vintage Books.
Dickerson, Vanessa D. 2001.“Summoning Somebody: The Flesh Made Word in Toni Morrison’s
Fiction”. InRecovering the Black Female Body: Self-Representation by African American Women, ed., Michael Bennett and Vanessa D. Dickerson. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Gaudium et Spes. 1965. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in Modern World. Section 30. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html
Hudson, Sandy. 2020. “Unborderable Blackness: How Diasporic Black Identities Pose a Threat
to Imperialism Ad Colonialism Everywhere.” In Until We Are Free: Reflections on
Black Lives Matter in Canada, edited by Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson, and Syrus Marcus Ware, 95–115. Regina, SK: University of Regina Press.
Lindsey, Treva B. 2015. “Post-Ferguson: A ‘Herstorical’ Approach to Black Violability.”
Feminist Studies 41(1): 232-237.
Massingale, Bryan N. 2010. Racial Justice and the Catholic Church. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis
----------. 2011. “The Systemic Erasure of the Black/Dark-Skinned Body in Catholic Ethics”, in
Catholic Theological Ethics, Past, Present, and Future, ed., James F. Keenan. Maryknoll,
----------. 2016. “A Church Where Black Lives Matter”, US Catholic81(12) (December 2016):8.
---------- (interviewee), and Susan A Ross (interviewer). 2017. “White Supremacy, the Election
of Donald Trump and the Challenge to Theology.” Concilium3: 65-73.
Maynard, Robyn. 2017. Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the
Present. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing.
McCormick, Patrick T. 2012. God’s Beauty: A Call to Justice. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical
McMurtry-Chubb, Teri A. 2016. “#SayHerName: State Violence in Policing the Black Female
Body.”Mercer Law Review 67 (3): 651-769.
Mikulich, Alex. 2005. “Mapping ‘Whiteness’: The Complexity of Racial Formation and the
Subversive Moral Imagination of the ‘Motely Crowd’”, Journal of the Society of
Christian Ethics 25 (1): 99-122.
----------. 2014.“Massingale, Martin and Enduring White Complicity”Concilium(4): 118-122.
Morrison, Toni. 2004. Beloved. New York, NY: Random House.
Mullings, Delores V. Summer 2016. Morgan Anthony, and Quelleng Heather Kere. “Canada the
Great White North where Anti-Racism Thrives: Kicking Down the Doors and Exposing
the Realities” Phylon53 (1): 20-41.
O’Donohue, John. 2003. Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace. Uxbridge Road, LD: Random
Odyssey Networks. 2016. “Kimberle Crenshaw on #SayHerName” (Video).
Ontario Human Rights Commission. 2019. “Foundation of Freedom Ontario Human Rights
Commission 2018-2019 Annual Report.”
Philip, M. Nourbese. 2013. “Meditations on the Declensions of Beauty By the Girl with the
Flying Cheek-bones.” In She Tries Her Tongue- Her Silence Softly Breaks.
Prevot, Andrew. “Divine Opacity: Mystical Theology, Black Theology, and the Problem of
Light-Dark Aesthetics.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality, vol. 16, no. 2, 2016,
Ross, Susan A. 2005. “Women, Beauty, and Justice: Moving Beyond von Balthasar” Journal of
the Society of Christian Ethics 25(1): 79-98.
Scarry, Elaine. 1999. On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Smith, Ted A. 2012. “The Good, the Beautiful, and the Difference”, Arts 23 (3):19-22.
Thompson, Cheryl. 2019. Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada’s Black Beauty
Culture. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfred University Press.
Walcott, Rinaldo and Idil Adbillahi. 2019. Black Life: Post-BLM and the Struggle for
Freedom. Arbeiter Ring Publishing.
Wallace, Mark I. 2010.“Early Christian Contempt for the Flesh and the Woman Who Loved Too
Much in the Gospel of Luke.” In The Embrace of Eros: Bodies, Desires, and Sexuality in
Christianity, ed., Margaret D. Kamitsuka. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress.
Williams, Delores S. 1994.“African-American Women in Three Contexts of Domestic
Williams, Shannen Dee. 2015. “The Global Catholic Church and the Radical Possibilities of
#BlackLivesMatter.”Journal of Africana Religions 3(4):503-515.
Williams, Sherri. 2016. “SayHerName: Using Digital Activism to Document Violence Against
Black Women.” Feminist Media Studies 16 (5): 922-925.