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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The common usage of “race” and “religion” in popular discourse makes overlooking the complicated histories of both terms easy to do. As a corrective to this simple oversight, this chapter examines the scholarly transitions that began to reintroduce race and religion as modern classifications rather than as universal phenomena that transcend specific societal contexts. Both terms underwent massive overhauls as recently as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, at the height of European imperial projects. Even more recently were the mid-twentieth century transitions that saw Religious Studies and Black Studies formalized as academic fields grounded in social scientific approaches to identity. Poststructuralism paved the way for analyses that deviated from the essentialist logics of theology and biological determinism, respectively. The scholarly discourse on “slave religion” is one productive site for thinking about race and religion as organizing and legitimizing tools of classification.

Keywords: race and religion, slave religion, classification, Religious Studies, Black Studies, identity, poststructuralism

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