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Title page for ETD etd-06142019-122705

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Armstrong, Amaryah Shaye
Author's Email Address amaryah.armstrong@gmail.com
URN etd-06142019-122705
Title Blackness and the Problem of Belonging: A Political Theology of Race and Reproduction
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Ellen Armour Committee Chair
Vincent Lloyd Committee Co-Chair
Emilie Townes Committee Member
Paul DeHart Committee Member
  • Political Theology
  • Blackness
  • Black History
  • Black Culture
  • Black Feminism
  • Angelina Weld Grimké
  • Delores Williams
  • Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
  • Chosen Peoplehood
  • Reproduction
Date of Defense 2019-05-23
Availability restricted
This study contributes to a diagnosis of how Christian ideas of peoplehood fund imaginations of race in the United States. Where many scholars examine how the Christian designation of “chosen peoplehood” legitimates claims of racial peoplehood in the US imagination, I consider how claims of chosen peoplehood need to be theologically reproduced in order to retain their power. In so doing, I show how theological management of the word operates in tandem with racial management of the image to ensure the proper reproduction of antiblack terms of order. I reread the work of Delores Williams, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Angelina Weld Grimké, as a way into political theological questions of legitimacy, meaning, and value, that can account for the relationship between race and reproduction in the articulation and imagination of chosen peoplehood.

Through their work, I show that the racial order of the domestic, or the household economy, illuminates how theological governance in the New World depends on black women’s reproduction. I interrogate the theological distinction between the free and enslaved, or legitimate and illegitimate, mother as a key way of naturalizing the terms of order through racialization. I thus show how theological claims of peoplehood serve to educate the social body in a racial economy of redemption where antiblack perceptions of the image secure identifications with the proper mother and ensure the imitation of political obligations that preserve an antiblack order of things. Rereading Williams, Harper, and Grimké, I develop a political theology of race and reproduction that recasts current conceptions of the problem of race and chosen peoplehood. I not only consider how biblical images are appropriated to fund political claims, but how political claims are naturalized through theological acts of reproduction. This analysis thus reveals the reproductive work that structures the political theology of antiblackness and rereads Williams, Harper, and Grimké to outline prospects for reproducing a black political theology against antiblack terms of order.

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