Unholy Ghosts in the Age of Spirit: Identity, Intersectionality, and the Theological Horizons of Black Progress
Williams, Gerald Lamar
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AbstractThe dissertation offers, at the intersection of race, gender, sexuality, and class, a constructive theological account of spirit in black Christianity. Although spirit is a pervasive trope in African-American religion, pneumatology is missing as theological method in black religious discourse in this “Age of Spirit.” In fact, spirit-talk has been used to pathologize some for the advancement of others, especially in the respectability politics of black racial uplift and the cis-heteronormativity of black charismatic Christianity. I am interested, therefore, in the discursive production of deviancy and the “demonic,” which is antithetical to spirit-talk. Through consideration of the “rational spirit” of W.E.B. Du Bois, the “sanctified spirit” of Zora Neale Hurston, and the “mystical spirit” of Howard Thurman, I develop a pneumatology that establishes the empowerment of the marginalized as the sine qua non, the essential condition and consequence, of spirit-talk. In the dissertation, I trace the legacies of these public intellectuals on African-American Christianity, particularly on black and womanist theologies: the thesis rethinks the concepts of hope, courage, and vitality, using Du Bois, Hurston, and Thurman, respectively, as interlocutors. In the end, I construct a theology of Spirit in black radical religion that resists, disturbs, and disrupts dispositifs of deviancy. By interpreting Jesus, the Spirit of God, as chief deviant and liberating power, I demonstrate that a progressive, queer pneumatology is possible.
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