Embodiment and the New Shape of Black Theological Thought

Embodiment and the New Shape of Black Theological Thought

Anthony B. Pinn
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Embodiment and the New Shape of Black Theological Thought
    Book Description:

    Black theology tends to be a theology about no-body. Though one might assume that black and womanist theology have already given significant attention to the nature and meaning of black bodies as a theological issue, this inquiry has primarily taken the form of a focus on issues relating to liberation, treating the body in abstract terms rather than focusing on the experiencing of a material, fleshy reality. By focusing on the body as a physical entity and not just a metaphorical one, Pinn offers a new approach to theological thinking about race, gender, and sexuality.According to Pinn, the body is of profound theological importance. In this first text on black theology to take embodiment as its starting point and its goal, Pinn interrogates the traditional source materials for black theology, such as spirituals and slave narratives, seeking to link them to materials such as photography that highlight the theological importance of the body. Employing a multidisciplinary approach spanning from the sociology of the body and philosophy to anthropology and art history, Embodiment and the New Shape of Black Theological Thought pushes black theology to the next level.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6851-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Black theology is a mode of worldly theology,worldlyin that it recognizes the manner in which the historical progress of humanity has taken place at the expense of particular groups not within the circle of dominance. Its existence is premised on a rejection of religious naïveté whereby human misery is covered by unrealizable hopefulness and theological slight of hand. While rejecting the extreme optimism generated by that position, black theological discourse also critiques unduly pessimistic depiction of human potential for initiating and sustaining socially transformative processes.¹ Human progress has indeed produced a bloody trail from Europe through Africa (and...

    • 1 Theological Posturing
      (pp. 17-34)

      The modern world focused a new type of attention on the difference of bodies, and created a hierarchy of bodies that gave felt or lived meaning to aesthetics.¹ Enslaved Africans and their descents as victims of this discursive arrangement sought and continue to seek (in that the process is ongoing and always unfinished) to transform this discourse by turning it on its head and by gaining new visibility and new spaces of life for their natural bodies. The materiality of the body, both the individual body and the collective body, became a venue for struggle against the damning effects of...

    • 2 Blackness and the Identifying of Bodies
      (pp. 35-52)

      For over a century W. E. B. Du Bois’ haunting proclamation has shaped epistemological and existential discussions about African Americans.¹ In his words:

      Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader;for the Problem of the Twenty-first century is the color line. . . .Leaving, then, the world of the white man, I have stepped within the Veil, raising it that you may view faintly its deeper recesses,—the meaning of...

    • 3 What to Make of Gendered Bodies?: Addressing the Male Problem
      (pp. 53-70)

      The task now is to interrogate theologically the ways in which black bodies have been defined as representative of the social system and its complex arrangement of life. I begin this process with a questioning of manhood and masculinity as the assumed representative framing of the black body: Why in black theology are the bodies usually black, male (chap. 3), and heterosexual (chap. 4)?

      Much time has passed since the October 1995 gathering of African American men in Washington, DC, but much about the framing and defining of black bodies has remained the same over the years since that event.¹...

    • 4 Sex(uality) and the (Un)Doing of Bodies
      (pp. 71-98)

      Insights concerning gender, such as those marking chapter 3, serve to raise other questions because, as Foucault notes, power opens to new possibilities of subjectivity and ways by which to manage new efforts toward the subject.¹ There is an ongoing process of discovery as systems of meaning are recognized and embraced and/or challenged.² As a result we see/experience ourselves and are also seen/experienced in various ways. Knowing this brings to mind important questions. For example, a turn to Alice Walker in light of her definition of womanist sexuality begs questions both black and womanist theologians have tackled gingerly, but which...

    • 5 Bodies as the Site of Religious Struggle: A Musical Mapping
      (pp. 101-122)

      Movement through the world involves struggle, but how do we articulate theologically this struggle in ways that reflect the embodied experiences of a range of African Americans? It is my belief that popular culture—including musical expression—provides a useful framing of struggle as religious quest. Yet, in light of my concern with embodied theological thought, even this religiously understood notion of struggle must be “earthbound.” That is to say, this struggle is known by and through the body, in the ways in which bodies occupy time and space, and chronicled in a variety of forms including musical production.


    • 6 On the Redemption of Bodies
      (pp. 123-142)

      Chapter 5 highlighted the tension involved in the theological construction of the self in relationship to competing and overlapping forces of normalization. It pointed out the various possibilities of lived experience when penetrated and shaped by these forces. The process of engagement, or surrender, to these forces was outlined, but questions remain: What is the desired or projected outcome of this construction, this engagement? What is gained (or what is lost)? These questions frame the possibility of redemption, the topic for this chapter. Rather than discussing redemption within the context of traditional discourses of new meaning ripped from the limited...

    • 7 Bodies in the World
      (pp. 143-158)

      The discussion in chapter 6 is a useful interrogation of embodied religious experience in the form of conversion and redemption, yet it leaves untapped an important area in that it does not sufficientlyplaceblack bodies and their redemption within the context of the larger natural environment. Humans are a part of the web of life, connected in profound ways to the world. And none have spoken the truth of this connection with more power and passion than Alice Walker. In her novelThe Color Purple, she has Shug speak these words: “But one day when I was sitting quiet...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 159-184)
  9. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 185-196)
  10. Index
    (pp. 197-204)
  11. About the Author
    (pp. 205-205)