New Scholarship in the Study of African American Religious History
- Vaughn A. Booker (Dartmouth College)
- Ahmad Greene-Hayes (Harvard University)
- Judith Weisenfeld (Princeton University)
- Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh (Stanford University)
- Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words to [email protected] by October 31, 2022, along with an abridged CV.
- Authors will be notified of decisions by December 2022.
- If accepted, the due date for completed drafts (of no more than 35 typed, double-spaced pages, including footnotes) will be December 30, 2023.
- Accepted authors will also be expected to participate in an in-person collaborative revision workshop to be scheduled later.
Please do not hesitate to contact us at the above email address with preliminary inquiries.
Call for Papers
African American religious history is a vibrant field with a historiographical lineage dating back to the late nineteenth century and its genealogy transcends the geographical borders of the United States of America. From W.E.B. Du Bois’s and Carter G. Woodson’s reflections on “the Negro church” to Zora Neale Hurston’s ethnographic fieldwork on Southern and Caribbean Black religions to Katherine Dunham’s capturing of Vodou and Orisa communities and their diasporic religious performances and aesthetics, scholars in the field have long employed interdisciplinary and transatlantic methods to chronicle the plethora of Black religions and Black religious experiences in the Americas. This volume seeks papers that contribute to the field’s scholarly legacy and contend with its future.
Equally important, African American religious history is a field of study shaped by the historical experiences and preoccupations of African-descended people in the United States, but not arbitrarily limited by the ideological confines and geographical borders of the U.S. nation-state as a colonial empire. Consequently, the editors seek essays that trouble the multiple, complex, and shifting meanings of “African American” “religious” “history,” through innovative and critical approaches to the study of the religions of Black people in and from the United States, its colonial territories, and within the African Atlantic world. Taking seriously Black religious diversity, the editors welcome essays that analyze the spectrum of religious innovations, practices, beliefs, theologies, performances, politics, and institutions among Africans and their American descendants from the 15th century to the contemporary period. The project’s emphasis on interrogating the boundaries of African American religious history as a scholarly field and historical phenomenon also yields a particular interest in work that models or posits new or creative theories and methods of study.
Relatedly, the editors invite historical, interdisciplinary, and theoretical essays, written with an inclusive focus on women, queer, transgender, gender non-conforming, working class, poor, non-Christian, and other historically or historiographically marginalized religious actors. Essays may revisit established areas of study in the field, such as Black Protestant denominational histories and do so by engaging with critical analyses of race, gender, sexuality, class, and empire, or they may expand into new areas of study.
The editors envision that this volume will highlight the diverse material and immaterial realities of religious life among people of African descent in and from the United States and the Americas more broadly, and that it will also provide a diagnostic account of the state of the field of African American religious history by paying homage to intellectual ancestors and exploring new directions. In this vein, the editors welcome papers that will hopefully engage the evolution of African American religions, locate places and spaces to find where Black religions have taken form, identify structures that nuance religious thought and practice, and highlight social roles where alternative forms of religious authority can occur. We encourage potential contributors to submit proposals for essays that explore topics that include but are certainly not limited to the following:
- Defining “African American” “religious” “history”
- Problematizing Keywords and Concepts in the field (i.e., syncretism, “the Black church,” joy, resistance, liberation, respectability, piety, religious affiliation/belonging, etc.)
- African American, Caribbean, Latin American, and African religious convergences
- Hemispheric, comparative, and/or regional approaches
- Empire and Colonialism
Histories and Temporalities:
- African American religious studies and its founders
- Unsung and understudied African American religious thinkers
- Periodization in the study of African American religion
- African American religion and slavery
- African American religion and Antebellum freedom
Methods and Approaches:
- Sources for the study of African American religious history
- African American religious history and interdisciplinarity
- African American religion and the digital
- African American religion and the archive
- African American religion and politics
- The secular and secularism
- Pessimism and/or futurism and/or utopianism
Materialities and Embodiment:
- Architecture, space, and place
- Health (mental health, public health, HIV/AIDS, Cancer, etc.)
- Gender and/or sexuality
- Labor, Capitalism, and economics
- Climate Change/Environmentalism/Nature
- Incarceration and Policing
- Life Cycles (adolescence, aging, adulthood, parenting, elders)
- Violence (interpersonal, structural, state, social, political, sexual, etc.)
- Performance, entertainment, music, arts, literature, culture, fashion, food, etc.
Spiritualities and Lived Religion:
- Ancestral veneration
- “Cults” and “sects”
- The erotics of African American religion
- Bireligiosity/Multiple Religious Belonging/Theological “Openness”
- African American religion and “the illicit” (i.e., pornography, sex work, psychedelics, entheogens, alcohol, etc.)
- African American queer, transgender, and gender nonconforming religious histories
- Professional careers (e.g., midwifery, the military, journalism, the sciences, broadcasting, corporate America, religious therapy/counseling, spiritual “gurus”)