Special Issue "Slave Religion: Histories and Horizons"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 December 2022 | Viewed by 2627

Special Issue Editor

Prof. K. Merinda Simmons
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religious Studies, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0264, USA
Interests: postcolonialism and race theory; social theory in the academic study of religion; identity studies and queer theory; diaspora and migration studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This special issue will offer a conversation among scholars that sees “slave religion” as an analytical starting point rather than as a clear object of study. They will respond to a pre-distributed text on the politics and practices of “recovery” in race studies. In so doing, these articles will identify and press points of contention, depart from and/or expand on the approach of the pre-distributed essay, and take relevant themes into new directions. The issue will thus reflect the broad-ranging applicability and significance of slave religion discourse in broader discussions about experience, race, diaspora, and subjectivity. By virtue of the varying perspectives brought to bear on the topic, the essays will be collectively a step forward in extending critical histories and theories of subjectivity in religious studies and will present new applications for conversations on race—too often siloed in the field.

Relevant questions for such a conversation include ones like: How does the terminology of slave religion still function for contemporary scholars? How might the last 30-or-so years of scholarship theorizing race and identity be brought more pointedly to bear on discussions of slavery/experience/history/subjectivity inside religious studies? Is there a place for recent turns in posthumanist thought (critiquing the notion of a stable human subject) in discourse on race and religion? In what ways is a history of “slave religion” also a history of the formation of Black Studies in 1960s–1970s academia (when work on the topic began establishing a formal foothold)? What implications do theoretical inroads on the topic have for broader work on identity and religion, experience and history, ancestry and futurity? What do careful, contextual readings of a system of economic/colonial relations offer to our understandings of the tropes that emerge from them (e.g., religion, experience, Atlantic, race, South, gender, etc.)?

The essays addressing such questions offer much to both slave religion discourse and social theory modes of engagement that prioritize sets of questions over discrete data sets. In The Fugitive’s Properties: Law and the Poetics of Possession (2004), Stephen M. Best identifies the symbolic figure/function of the slave as a “unique incarnation of a network of social relations” (6). Attending to networks of social relations rather than appealing to discrete histories provide inroads for a host of different avenues of inquiry within religious studies across a variety of data. If we are to theorize forward from the oft-construed dichotomies of materialism and poststructuralism, ontology and social constructivism, “lived experiences” and written narratives, these networks surely deserve careful attention.

Prof. K. Merinda Simmons
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • slave religion
  • social theory
  • race, diaspora
  • subjectivity
  • discourse analysis

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

Article
Recovering the Irrecoverable: Blackness, Melancholy, and Duplicities That Bind
Religions 2021, 12(4), 276; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12040276 - 16 Apr 2021
Viewed by 580
Abstract
In this article, I critically engage Stephen Best’s provocative text, None Like Us. The article agrees with Best’s general concerns regarding longings for a unified black community or a We before the collective crime of slavery. Yet I contend that melancholy, which Best [...] Read more.
In this article, I critically engage Stephen Best’s provocative text, None Like Us. The article agrees with Best’s general concerns regarding longings for a unified black community or a We before the collective crime of slavery. Yet I contend that melancholy, which Best associates with black studies’ desire to recover a lost object, can be read in a different direction, one that includes both attachment and wound, investment and dissolution. To think with and against Best, I examine Spike Lee’s School Daze in conversation with Freud, Benjamin, and Morrison. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Slave Religion: Histories and Horizons)
Article
Hallowed Haunts: The National African American Museum as Sacred Space
Religions 2020, 11(12), 666; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11120666 - 13 Dec 2020
Viewed by 777
Abstract
This paper uses Stephen Best’s None Like Us and Charles H. Long’s Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion to redescribe the notion of sacred space in light of the national African American museum. After highlighting religion and the museum’s [...] Read more.
This paper uses Stephen Best’s None Like Us and Charles H. Long’s Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion to redescribe the notion of sacred space in light of the national African American museum. After highlighting religion and the museum’s mutual Romantic origins, it underscores the invisible institution of slave religion as a modern counterpoint that is harrowingly evocative of the indeterminacy of human meaning-making. The national African American museum, represented by offerings from the Smithsonian Institution and the Equal Justice Initiative, operates as a social technology for working through the tensions of history. “Hallowed Haunts” examines its function as a matrix of haunting, where a variety of multi-sensory experiences lead visitors into a participatory reckoning with the legacy of slavery, one through which they determine how to face the challenges and potential opportunities that await them. As such, the national African American museum exemplifies Long’s thesis of sacred space as human centers, a metonym for the places humans visit for orientation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Slave Religion: Histories and Horizons)
Article
“Slaves of the State”: Christianity and Convict Labor in the Postbellum South
Religions 2020, 11(12), 651; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11120651 - 04 Dec 2020
Viewed by 810
Abstract
In the wake of the Civil War, southern states incarcerated record numbers of black men and women, closed their prisons, and sent convicted criminals to convict lease camps. Inside these camps, convict laborers worked for businesses, for individual entrepreneurs, on plantations, and on [...] Read more.
In the wake of the Civil War, southern states incarcerated record numbers of black men and women, closed their prisons, and sent convicted criminals to convict lease camps. Inside these camps, convict laborers worked for businesses, for individual entrepreneurs, on plantations, and on public works projects contracted to private businesses. Due to the Thirteenth Amendment’s “slaves of the state” clause, these laborers were legally classified as slaves and treated as such by labor camp operators. Conditions inside these camps were quite harsh, and in most camps, state-sanctioned Protestant socialization efforts were the laborers’ primary source of leisure. This essay provides a preliminary overview of the convergence of Protestant Christianity and convict lease camps as it calls scholars to explore this convergence in greater detail in future scholarship. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Slave Religion: Histories and Horizons)
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