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Black Reconstruction: Thinking Blackness and Rethinking Class in Late Capitalist America

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Part of the New Approaches to Religion and Power book series (NARP)

Abstract

How do we think religion, theology, and class? How do we critically engage this problematic when we consider the development and evolution of invidious conceptions of race and antiblackness in the modern world? With what conceptual categories, what theoretical frameworks, and what analytical methods and normative underpinnings?

Keywords

Black Community Black Worker White Supremacy Dominant Logic African American Cultural 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    On this theme, see, for example, Daniel Dubuisson, The Western Construction of Religion: Myths, Knowledge, and Ideology, trans. William Sayers (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003),Google Scholar
  2. Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions: Or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005),CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. and Russell T. McCutcheon, Manufacturing Religion: The Discourse of Sui Generis Religion and the Politics of Nostalgia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    This particular formulation is inspired by the line of thinking opened up by Ronald Judy in his work on “the Negro” in Kant’s critical project and the recent work of Jonathan Judaken in his formulation of the “conceptual Jew” in the thought of Arendt and Adorno. See Ronald Judy, “Kant and the Negro,” Surfaces 1.8 (1991): 1–70Google Scholar
  5. and Jonathan Judaken, “Blindness and Insight: The Conceptual Jew in Adorno and Arendt’s Post-Holocaust Reflections on the Antisemitic Question,” in Lars Rensmann and Samir Gandesha, eds., Arendt & Adorno: Political and Philosophical Investigations (Sanford: Stanford University Press, 2012), 173–196.Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    Sean McCloud and William A. Mirola, eds., Religion and Class in America: Culture, History, and Politics (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 2.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America 1860–1880 (1935, New York: Free Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    Enrique Dussel, The Underside of Modernity: Apel, Ricoeur, Rorty, Taylor and the Philosophy of liberation, trans. Eduardo Mendieta (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2007).Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Lerone Bennett, Jr., The Challenge of Blackness (Chicago: Johnson, 1972), 33.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    On this point, see Corey D. B. Walker, “‘The Empire and the Garden’: Race, Religion, and the (Im)Possibilities of Thinking,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 78.1 (2010): 265–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 9.
    Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (1972; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 10.
    See Robert H. Nelson, Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001), xv.Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    On this point, Etienne Balibar’s production of “class racism” is acutely instructive. See Etienne Balibar “Class Racism” in Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities, trans. Chris Turner (London: Verso, 1991), 204–216.Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, eds. and trans. Quintín Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (New York: International, 1971), 721.Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    Charles H. Long, Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion (1986; Aurora, CO: Davies Group, 1995), 203.Google Scholar
  16. 15.
    For a previous engagement that attempts to think the category of class within a critical articulation of liberation theology, see Marvin G. Dunn, “Liberation Theology and Class Analysis: A Reassessment of Religion and Class,” latin American Perspectives 13.3 (1986): 59–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    George A. Akerlof and Robert J. Shiller, Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 1.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    The exemplary effort to “occupy religion” is quite suggestive in this respect. However, the task must not rest with this project. Indeed, the efforts represented in this volume seeks to deepen this line of thinking by enabling a fuller elaboration of freedom and human possibility that does not render the majority of the world to mere actors within a categorical drama, which is acceptable to logical and political regimes of the West. See Joerg Rieger and Kwok Pui-Lan, Occupy Religion: Theology of the Multitude (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2012).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Long, Significations, 204. On this point, see also Bob Jessup, “Informational Capitalism and Empire: The Postmarxist Celebration of US Hegemony in a New World Order,” Studies in Political Economy 71/72 (2003–2004), 39–58.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    An early and classic attempt at such a thinking is Cornel West, “Black Theology and Marxist Thought,” in James H. Cone and Gayraud S. Wilmore, eds., Black Theology: A Documentary History, Volume I 1966–1979 (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1979), 552–567Google Scholar
  21. and Cornel West, Prophesy Deliverance!: An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  22. 21.
    Bettye Collier-Thomas, Jesus, Jobs, and Justice: African American Women and Religion (New York: Knopf, 2010).Google Scholar
  23. 22.
    James Crotty, “The Centrality of Money, Credit, and Financial Intermediation in Marx’s Crisis Theory: An Interpretation of Marx’s Methodology,” in Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff, eds., Rethinking Marxism: Essays in Honor of Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy (New York: Autonomedia, 1985), 45.Google Scholar
  24. 23.
    Quite instructive in this regard is Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).Google Scholar
  25. 24.
    See Walter Lowe, Theology and Difference: The Wound of Reason (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993), 4.Google Scholar
  26. 25.
    See Anibal Quijano, “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America,” Nepantla: Views from South 1.3 (2000): 533–580;Google Scholar
  27. Walter D. Mignolo, “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference,” South Atlantic Quarterly 101.1 (2002): 57–96;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. and Howard Winant, Racial Conditions: Politics, Theory, Comparisons (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  29. 26.
    Victor Anderson, Beyond Ontological Blackness: An Essay on African American Cultural and Religious Criticism (New York: Continuum, 1995).Google Scholar
  30. 27.
    Houston Baker, “Foreword,” in Paul Gilroy, “There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack”: The Cultural Politics of Race and Nation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), 5.Google Scholar
  31. 28.
    Victor Anderson, Creative Exchange: A Constructive Theology of African American Religious Experience (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2008),.Google Scholar
  32. 29.
    Geoffrey Galt Harpham, On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), 3.Google Scholar
  33. My position is informed by Theodor Adorno, Against Epistemology: A Metacritique: Studies in Husserl and Phenomenological Antimonies (1956; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  34. 30.
    Brian O’Connor, Adorno’s Negative Dialectic: Philosophy and the Possibility of Critical Rationality (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005), 3.Google Scholar
  35. 33.
    David Levering Lewis, “The Promise and Peril of Class in the Problem of the 20th Century,” Journal of Negro Education 65.2 (1996): 112–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 34.
    Cornel West, “Afterword,” in Wahneema Lubiano, ed., The House That Race Built: Black Americans, U.S. Terrain (New York: Pantheon Books, 1997), 301.Google Scholar
  37. 36.
    Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, “African-American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race,” in Barbara Laslett, Ruth-Ellen B. Joeres, Mary Jo Maynes, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, and Jeanne Barker-Nunn, eds., History and Theory: Feminist Research, Debates, Contestations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 305.Google Scholar

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© Joerg Rieger 2013

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