Conjuring Culture

Conjuring Culture : Biblical Formations of Black America

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In Conjuring Culture, Theophus Smith provides an innovative, interdisciplinary interpretation of the formation of African-American religion and culture. Smith argues for the central role in black spirituality of "conjure" - a magical means of transforming reality. Smith shows that the Bible, the sacred text of Western civilization, has in fact functioned as a magical formulary or sourcebook for African-Americans. Beginning in slave religion, and continuing in folk practice and literary expression, the Bible provided African-Americans with ritual prescriptions for prophetically re-envisioning and, therein, transforming history and culture. In effect, it functioned as a "conjure book" for prescribing practices of healing and harming in response to the vicissitudes of black experience, and for invoking Divine and extraordinary powers in the conduct of social change and freedom movements. Typical prescriptions entail biblical symbols, themes, and figures like Moses, Exodus, Promised Land, and Suffering Servant - figures that have crucially formed and reformed American culture as a whole. In addition to religious and political phenomena. Smith explores black aesthetics as expressed in music, drama, folklore, and literature. The concept of conjure discloses an indigenous and still vital spirituality with implications for reformulating the next generation of black studies and black theology. Indeed, the book introduces "conjuring culture" as a new conceptual paradigm for understanding Western religious and cultural phenomena generally.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 303 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 544.31g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195067401
  • 9780195067408

Review quote

"Employing ethnographic theories, phenomenological analysis, and biblical hermeneutics, Smith moves across a dazzling array of disciplines and cultural materials, both historical and contemporary....Highly recommended for graduate students and specialists."--Choice"A highly original and very creative text. The breadth of reading and learning displayed is not only impressive but apt. The book defies easy categorization, as it ranges across theological, literary, ethical, biblical, and aesthetic issues. I predict that it will be widely noticed, it will arouse argument, and it will represent a new kind of African-American religious scholarship."--Albert J. Raboteau, Princeton University"Smith's work shows independence, creativity, and originality. It is the first work on African-American religion that has grown out of religious studies. While attentive to the black theology agenda, he has not succumbed to it, and while well versed in the scholarly work of those in other humanistic disciplines, he has held out for a religious meaning of these same data. The black theology project seemed at one point to take away all the other options....Smith's work opens up the area of black religion again, an opening that places the study within a wider perspective of method."--Charles Long, University of California, Santa Barbara"This book is a "must reading"-a seminal work of analysis and synthesis, and a major event in hermeneutics and cultural criticism."--Allen D. Callahan, Harvard Divinity Bulletin"Theophus Smith provides an innovative, interdisciplinary interpretation of the formation of African-American religion and culture....The book introduces "conjuring culture" as a new conceptual paradigm for understanding western religious and cultural phenomena generally."--Black Media News..".highly recommended for scholars..."--Religious Studies Review"Theophus H. Smith has written an extremely important and intellectually creative book. Indeed, it is a new paradigm for black theological and African American religious studies thought and method...Smith's text is the first to combine an investigation of religious approach, the folk tradition of conjuring, and the magical deployment of the Bible."--Bryn Mawr Medieval Reviewshow more

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