Divine Blackness: Christian Imagination in Overcoming Racism

“At the core of black religion is a divine imagination that performs an interruption of presumed borders and offers a radical movement toward limitless possibilities; that is, black religion imagines other worlds, others futures, and other possibilities. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Leonard McKinnis University of Illinois Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Since their first arrival and involuntary participation in the North American experiment of nation-building, Black people have grappled with the meaning of their identity and their place in a world that denied their being. Drawing upon new ethnographic research that engages the Black Coptic Church (BCC), a Great Migration Christian new religious movement (NRM), my book considers the function of fugitive thought and “performative imagination,” that is, the act of making visible otherwise invisible possibilities, in the process of re-constructing Black identity. Great Migration NRM’s signal an attempt of Black people to wrestle with existential absurdity and blurred identity. Many NRMs not only offered their congregants a sense of religious and spiritual connectivity divorced from mainline Christianity, but more than this, they offered a sense of personal and collective identity, whereby their given identities were rejected and replaced with a sense of self that afforded cultural and religious heritage outside the borders of white normative culture, and its religious imagination. It is within this space of NRMs where we witness performative imagination in the construction of imagined communities, such that cultural heritage and religious sensibilities are joined toward the process of performing a new Black being, whose history and future are part and parcel of a divine geography. My book argues for a more elastic understanding of Black religion, and pursues to demonstrate how Ethiopianism performs a fugitive function in the process of identity retrieval and re-construction in the BCC, such that the construction of an imagined homeland seeks to de-stabilize notions of the citizen. Divine Blackness, therefore, pursues to nuance the conversation of Black communities of faith in North America via a critical examination of the intersection of race and religion.