Conjuring Kinship: Black Theology, Blood, and the Heretical Literary Imagination of Pauline Hopkins
This presentation considers Pauline Hopkins' novel "Of One Blood" as a way to explore the political theological function of kinship in Black studies. The novel's combination of realism and science fiction depicts a confrontation with the ethereal and material sense of loss, trauma, and waywardness that Black kinship conjures in the wake of racial slavery. Reading Hopkins' literary imagination as steeped in theological affects, images, and orientations, Dr. Armstrong shows how Hopkins critiques the sense of loss that permeates Black kinship as an effect of a white political theological project of (Christian) blood that drains the life force of Black people. At the same time, Armstrong argues that a political theological reading of Hopkins' novel illuminates theological motifs as forms of conjuring Black kinship to reanimate spirit and flesh severed in the diasporic wreckage of Atlantic slavery. Through Hopkins' impure combinations of Christian, scientific, and occultist materials, Armstrong considers how we can understand Black theology as a heretical or gnostic form of social reproduction that conjures belonging from the impossible divisions of blood made in the wake of slavery.
Amaryah Armstrong is an assistant professor of race in American religion and culture at Virginia Tech. Her research cuts across the fields of Black Studies, American Studies, Political Theology, and Continental Philosophy of Religion to explore the relationship between religion and the reproduction of race in the aftermath of 1492. She is working on two projects. The first, "Reproducing Peoplehood: On the Afterlife of Christian Order," brings together Black feminist theories of reproduction, American religious history, political theology, and Black women's post-Reconstruction literature to examine how the reproductive is critical to understanding the racial afterlife of Christian peoplehood. In so doing, Armstrong shows how theologies of peoplehood operate as reproductive technologies in the formation and preservation of antiblack and Black feminist political theologies. The second project, "A Measure of Existence: On the Value of Black Theology," develops a critical rereading of James Cone's announcement of Black theology in light of theories of blackness and value, racial capitalism, and theological accounts of economy. She also has several articles in the works on the insights of various Black intellectuals (W.E.B. Du Bois, Hortense Spillers) and the relationship between Black culture and theology.
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