Albert J. Raboteau, Religious History, and the Ambiguities of Blackness
Here this chapter engages the work of Albert Raboteau, the elder statesman of contemporary African American religious history, particularly his early work, Slave Religion (1978). The ambiguity of this text, which is emblematic of the field, lies in its impression that black religion generally and Afro‐Christianity particularly is a reflex of race, an (essentialist) echo of “Africanity” or “blackness” itself. Thus, black cultural nationalism is at the root of black religion. However, such a reading of black faith only lodges it within, rather than seeing it as trying to disrupt, modernity's racial imagination.The chapter then reexamine Raboteau's early work in light of his post‐Slave Religion work, inspired as it is by icon theology. Raboteau can now historically call attention to how Afro‐Christianity disrupts the racial gaze. The book later refines and presses Raboteau's fledgling and sketchy insights in a theologically robust direction.
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