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Embodiment and Black Religion

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The authors of this volume are the members of Rice University's Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning Writing Collective: Anthony B. Pinn, Jessica B. Davenport, Justine M. Bakker, Cleve V. Tinsley IV, Biko Mandela Gray, David A. Kline, Jason O. Jeffries, Sharde' N. Chapman and Mark A. DeYoung

This volume builds on scholarship by scholars of African American religion that emphasizes the centrality of the body in religion and religious experience.

The argument is grounded in Anthony Pinn’s understanding of religion as an embodied quest for complex subjectivity, or push for more life meaning. But if Pinn’s theory gets at what religion is, this volume picks up where he left off by giving careful consideration to religion’s forms. It interrogates the embodied nature of the quest for complex subjectivity. Through placing different theories of the body in conversation with specific case studies that reflect the variety of ways in which bodies are entangled and engaged in struggles for life meaning, the authors argue that African American religion takes on various forms, including modes of cultural production as well as mundane, everyday rituals and practices.

The volume expands current scholarship on African American religion and embodiment by going beyond an understanding of black religion as the “Black Church” and underscoring the variety of religious experiences, in both marginal religious traditions and in non-traditional forms of religion. The sustained and rigorous attention to theories of the body in this volume allows for a more robust understanding of what the body is and takes scholarship beyond the implicit understandings of the body as solely discursive. Finally, the approach is interdisciplinary. While grounded in Religious Studies, this book puts various theories and methodologies—from the social sciences to philosophy, and from visual studies to literary studies—in conversation with the religious experiences of African Americans.

Published: Oct 20, 2017

Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements CERCL Writing Collective
Bodies and Religion CERCL Writing Collective
Part One: Religion in Traditional Forms
1. "Heaven Knows No Color": Hybrid Bodies in Father Divine's Peace Mission Movement CERCL Writing Collective
2. Arm, Leg, Leg, Arm, Head, this is God Body: The Body as a Site of Religious Expression in the Five Percenters CERCL Writing Collective
Part Two: Cultural Production
3. Making Bodies with a Brush Stroke: African American Visual Art and the Re/constitution of Black Embodiment CERCL Writing Collective
4. Unchained Bodies: Black Womanhood, Resistance, and Complex Subjectivity in Black Literature CERCL Writing Collective
5. It was Written on her Face: Religion and Black Women's Embodied Emotion in Film CERCL Writing Collective
6. "School Daze": Embodiment and Meaning Making in Black Greek Letter Organizations CERCL Writing Collective
Part Three: Religion in Everyday Life
7. Hoodies and Headwraps: Everyday Religion and the Dressing of Black Bodies CERCL Writing Collective
8. Gathering around the Table: Food Practices and Religious Meaning CERCL Writing Collective
9. Every-Body's Truth: The New Genetics of Race and the Quest for Complex Subjectivity CERCL Writing Collective
Epilogue CERCL Writing Collective
End Matter
Bibliography CERCL Writing Collective
Index CERCL Writing Collective


Embodiment is innovative in its subject area(s) and experimental in its broadening of the sources and norms of black religious thought. This book offers a strong “mixed bag” of theoretical and methodological perspectives that help interrogate religion and black bodies, which should be of great interest to scholars of African American studies, theorists of religion and culture, and those interested in the phenomenology of the body. Largely indebted to Pinn’s construction of complex subjectivity, the critical thread throughout this work privileges an expanded framing of the nature of the “religious” beyond “traditional” sources, structures, and subjects of study.
Black Theology