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Divine DiscontentThe Religious Imagination of W. E. B. Du Bois$
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Jonathon S. Kahn

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195307894

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195307894.001.0001

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Conclusion: Beyond Du Bois

Conclusion: Beyond Du Bois

Toward a Tradition of African American Pragmatic Religious Naturalism

Chapter:
(p.129) Conclusion: Beyond Du Bois
Source:
Divine Discontent
Author(s):

Jonathon S. Kahn (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195307894.003.0007

This concluding chapter begins to look beyond Du Bois for a larger tradition of African American pragmatic religious naturalism. Du Bois inaugurates this tradition, and this chapter argues that it continues in figures such as Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin. Using Albert Murray's work, the chapter understands African American pragmatic religious naturalism as a form of blues improvization where mimicking traditional forms of African American religion leads to flights of novel inspiration. The focus of this chapter is on a scene from Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man in which Ellison uses religion to unsettle racial essentialisms. Ironically, Ellison turns religion into a source for indeterminacy and ambivalence that strengthen a pragmatic confrontation with racial terms of existence.

Keywords:   pragmatic religious naturalism, Ralph Ellison, improvization, Invisible Man, Albert Murray, racial essentialism

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