Christianity, Race and Colonialism

My other new course this year is a new module I’ve designed entirely from scratch on Christianity, Race and Colonialism, which I’ll be teaching to second and third year undergraduates. I’m really excited and also extremely nervous about it, but currently feeling pretty pleased with the syllabus. I teach alternate week advanced seminars with the third years, so for those sessions we’ll be focusing on more advanced theoretical material and trying to think through how those additional readings relate to the course. I’ve given all the students a relatively open brief for the oral exam at the end of the course and am really excited to see what they come up with. The syllabus runs as follows:

Catalogue Summary:

This module will explore the complex history of Western Christianity’s relationship to race and colonialism, surveying key theological texts alongside historical and theoretical accounts of the emergence of Christianity as a new kind of entity, the role of its interactions with Judaism and then Islam in forming ideas of Christian identity and mission, the invention of race, and Christianity’s transformation during the history of European colonialism, racial chattel slavery, and resistance to racism, slavery and colonialism. The module will seek to help students understand the historical relationship between Christian theology, racism and colonialism and to reflect on the implications of this history for the contemporary world.

Learning Outcomes:

By the conclusion of this module, a student will be expected to be able to:

(a)   Demonstrate a knowledge of the historical development of racism and colonialism

(b)   Demonstrate a critical understanding of key conceptual frameworks for understanding the development of racism and colonialism

(c)    Critically evaluate theological texts in light of historical and theoretical accounts of race and colonialism

Assessment

Due: Oral exams will take place in Week 12.

Assessment Type: Oral Exam

Word Length: 10 minute presentation plus 5-10 minutes discussion.

Percentage: 100

You will be asked to present 10 minute analysis of a theological text of your choosing, drawing on historical, theoretical and theological ideas from this course. How does the text reflect and/or resist the entangled histories of Christianity, racism and colonialism?

Due date for assessment to be returned to student with feedback: 18/01/18

Marking criteria can also be found, listed by level, in the Programme Handbook.

 

LECTURE OVERVIEW

Week 1. Introducing Christianity, Race and Colonialism

Week 2. Christianity, Whiteness and Innocence

ADVANCED SEMINAR: Slavery and Social Death

Week 3. ‘Neither Jew nor Greek, Slave nor free’: Beginnings

Week 4. The Formation of a Persecuting Society

ADVANCED SEMINAR: Blood

Week 5. The Invention of ‘Man’

Week 6. Canaanites, Cowboys and Indians

ADVANCED SEMINAR: Manhunts

Week 7. Enrichment Week

Week 8. The Curse of Ham

ADVANCED SEMINAR: Orientalism

Week 9. The Bible and the Flag Week

10. Black and Womanist Theology

ADVANCED SEMINAR: Black Women’s Labours

Week 11. Christianity, White Supremacy and the West

Week 12. Oral exams

 

Week 1. Introducing Christianity, Race and Colonialism

In the first half of this week’s session, we will introduce the course, including an overview of the topics we will be covering over the course of the semester and the course assessment. The required reading for this week, an extract from Reni Eddo-Lodge’s recent book, explores the recent histories of the impact of race and colonialism on Britian. In the second half of the session we will consider whiteness: what is whiteness, how does it function, and what is the relationship between whiteness as a general category and individual white people?

Required Reading

Reni Eddo-Lodge, ‘Histories’ in Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 1-56.

Additional Reading

Arun Kundnani, ‘Introduction’ in The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain (London: Pluto Press, 2007), 1-10.

Willie James Jennings, ‘Introduction’ in The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 1-14.

 

Week 2. Christianity, Whiteness and Innocence

In the first half of this week’s session, we will discuss the two pieces of required reading for the week. George Yancy’s ‘Looking at Whiteness’ is a philosophical account of whiteness; my ‘For My Sins’ suggests some ways we might think about whiteness historically and in relation to key ideas and concepts that have shaped Christian theological thinking. In the second half of the session, we will look at the emergence of Christianity in first-century Palestine. What is Christianity, and how might we understand Christian beginnings in light of the later development of racism, slavery and colonialism in the Christian West?

Required Reading

George Yancy, ‘Looking at Whiteness: Finding Myself Much Like a Mugger at a Boardwalk’s End’ in Look, A White! Philosophical Essays on Whiteness (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012), 17-39.

Marika Rose, ‘For Our Sins: Christianity, Complicity and the Racialized Construction of Innocence’ in Exploring Complicity: Concepts, Cases and Critique, edited by Robin Dunford, Afxentis Afxentiou and Michael Neu (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017), 53-64.

Additional Reading

Sara Ahmed, ‘A Phenomenology of Whiteness’ in Feminist Theory 8.2 (2007), 149-168.

George Yancy, ‘Introduction: Framing the Problem’ in Christology and Whiteness: What Would Jesus Do?, edited by George Yancy (London: Routledge, 2012), 1-18.

 

ADVANCED SEMINAR: SLAVERY AND SOCIAL DEATH

Each Advanced Seminar will look at a more theoretical piece dealing with key themes and ideas from the rest of the course, and we will use the advanced seminar sessions to discuss how these texts might help us to engage with the rest of the course materials. This week we will look at the work of Orlando Patterson, whose magisterial study of slavery suggests that we might understand the position of the slave in terms of ‘social death’. What is social death and how might it help us understand Christianity and whiteness?

Required Reading

Orlando Patterson, ‘Introduction’ and extracts from chapter 1 in Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), 1-14, 35-62.

 

Week 3. ‘Neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free’: Beginnings

In the first half of this week’s session we will discuss the two pieces of required reading for the week. Daniel Boyarin’s Border Lines argues that Christianity comes into being as a distinct entity by using the notionsls of ‘heresy’ and ‘orthodoxy’ to distinguish itself from the Judaism from which it takes its origins. Boyarin argues that with the emergence of Christianity, a new notion of ‘religion’ comes into being. Orlando Patterson discusses the role of slavery metaphors in early Christianity ( specifically in the New Testament). He argues that the ambivalence of early Christianity’s use of slavery imagery lays the groundwork for Christianity to become a religion both of slaves and of slave masters. In the second half of the session we will jump forward in time to the late medieval period in which modern ideas of race are beginning to form in Christian Europe. Looking at Christianity’s medieval relationship to Jews, Muslims, and other internal and external enemies, we will consider the political and theological shifts taking place which make possible the emergence of racial chattel slavery and European colonialism.

Required Reading

Daniel Boyarin, ‘Introduction’ in Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennysylvania Press, 2004), 1-17.

Orlando Patterson, ‘Religion and Symbolism’ in Slavery and Social Death,: A Comparative Study (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), 66-76.

Additional Reading

Denise Kimber Buell, ‘“From Every Race of Humans”: Ethnic Reasoning, Conversion and Christian Universalism’ in Why This New Race: Ethnic Reasoning (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 138-165.

Denise Kimber Buell, ‘Early Christian universalism and modern forms of racism’ in The Origins of Racism in the West, edited by Miriam Eliav-Feldon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 109-131.

 

Week 4. The Formation of a Persecuting Society

In the first half of this week’s session we will discuss the two pieces of required reading for the week. Humbert of Romans’ ‘Opus Tripartitum’ is a theological apologia for the European crusades which sought to ‘recapture’ the land of Israel from its Muslim rulers. Willie Jenning’s article recounts the first medieval slave auction on European soil and reflects on the historical and theological significance of this event. In the second half of this week’s session, we will look at the emergence of European colonialism, and consider the debates about what it means to be human which took place as Europeans began to encounter non-European cultures.

Required Reading

Humbert of Romans, ‘Opus Tripartitum’ in The Crusades: Idea and Reality, 1095-1274, edited by Lousie Riley-Smith and Jonathan Riley-Smith (London: Edward Arnold, 1981), 103-17.

Willie James Jennings, ‘Zurara’s Tears’ in The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 15-38, 60-64.

Additional Reading

Francisco Bethencourt, ‘Christian Reconquest’ in Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 19-36.

David Nirenberg, ‘Was there race before modernity? The example of “Jewish” blood in late medieval Spain’ in The Origins of Racism in the West, edited by Miriam Eliav-Feldon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 232-264.

 

ADVANCED SEMINAR 2: BLOOD

This extract from Gil Anidjar’s book Blood traces the shifting meaning of blood over the history of medieval and into early modern Europe, arguing that the changing theological significance of blood means that it comes to be a key signifier of racial difference. In this seminar we will consider how this account of blood, theology and race might help us understand and analyse other materials from the course.

Required Reading

Gil Anidjar, extracts from ‘Nation (Jesus’ Kin) in Blood: A Critique of Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014), 34-40, 68-78.

 

Week 5. The Invention of ‘Man’

In the first half of this week’s session we will discuss the two pieces of required reading for the week. Bartolome de Las Casas’ In Defense of the Indians is a treatise written to protest against the violence done by European settlers to indigenous American people, and makes a theological argument for recognising these people as having certain inherent rights – this texts marks, in some ways, the emergence of the idea of ‘human rights’ in the Christian West. Sylvia Wynter’s article reflects on the debates between Bartolome de Las Casas and his contemporaries about the nature and extent of Europeans’ ethical obligations to non-Europeans and what these debates tell us about shifting ideas about human nature and religious and racial difference. In the second half of this week’s session we will look at the theological ideas and biblical texts which Europeans used to justify taking other people’s land.

Required Reading

Extracts from Bartolome de Las Casas, In Defense of the Indians (Northern Illinois University Press, 1992)

Sylvia Wynter, ‘New Seville and the Conversion Experience of Bartolomé de Las Casas. Part One’ in Jamaica Journal

Additional Reading

Roger Ruston, Human Rights and the Image of God (Hymns Ancient and Modern, 2004).

Luis N Rivera, ‘The Christian Empire: Reflection on Las Casas and Vitoria’ in A Violent Evangelism: The Political and Religious Conquest of the Americas (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1992), 63-87.

Sylvia Wynter, ‘New Seville and the Conversion Experience of Bartolomé de Las Casas. Part Two’ in Jamaica Journal http://web1.dloc.com/UF00090030/00044/48j

Andre A. Alves and Jose M. Moreira, ‘Reception and Influence of the Work’ in The Salamanca School (New York: Continuum, 2010), 86-109.

 

Week 6. Canaanites, Cowboys and Indians

In the first half of this week’s session we will discuss the required reading for the week. The three papal encyclicals are key historical documents set out a vision of papal power and European land-rights which proved crucial for the development of European colonialism. Andrea Smith’s ‘Decolonising Theology’, written by a contemporary scholar with a complicated relationship to indigenous American identity, asks how contemporary theologies of liberation might grapple with the complex ways that biblical texts have been used to justify settler colonialism. In the second half of the session we will look at the historical development of racial chattel slavery and the Atlantic slave trade and explore some of the ways that slavery was understood and justified within Europe.

Required Reading

‘Dum Diversas’, ‘Inter Caeterae’ and ‘Romanis Pontifex’ in Church and State Through the Centuries: A Collection of Historic Documents and Commentaries edited by Sidney Zdeneck Ehler (Burns & Oates, 1954).

Andrea Smith, ‘Decolonising Theology’ in Union Seminar Quarterly Review 59.1-2 (2005), 63-78.

Additional Reading

Special Rapporteur, ‘Preliminary study of the impact on indigenous peoples of the international legal construct known as the Doctrine of Discovery’, United Nations Economic and Social Council April 2010. https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/E.C.19.2010.13%20EN.pdf

Luis N Rivera, ‘Alexander’s Papal Bulls’ in A Violent Evangelism: The Political and Religious Conquest of the Americas (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1992), 23-42.

Francisco Bethencourt, ‘Americans’ in Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 101-116.

‘Open Letter From Indigenous Women Scholars Regarding Discussions of Andrea Smith’ in Indian Country Today https://web.archive.org/web/20170909031612/https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/opinions/open-letter-from-indigenous-women-scholars-regarding-discussions-of-andrea-smith/

Vine Deloria Jr, Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988).

Snelgrove, Corey, Rita Dhamoon, Jeff Corntassel (Cherokee), ‘Unsettling Settler Colonialism: The discourse and politics of settlers, and solidarity with Indigenous nations” in Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 3.2 (2014), 1-32.

You could also take a look at the #StandingRockSyllabus

 

ADVANCED SEMINAR: MANHUNTS

This week’s reading is taken from Chamayou’s Manhunts, which discusses European practices of hunting indigenous American people as though they were game animals, and asks what these practices tell us about European understandings of human nature. We will consider how this text illuminates the other material we cover about European ideas and practices during the colonisation of the Americas.

Required Reading

Grégoire Chamayou, ‘Hunting Indians’ in Manhunts: A Philosophical History, translated by Steven Rendall (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 29-42.

 

Week 7. Enrichment Week

 

Week 8. The Curse of Ham: Re-inventing Slavery

In the first half of this week’s session we will discuss the two pieces of required reading for the week. Richard’s Furman’s ‘Exposition’ offers a theological justification of racial chattel slavery. Quobna Ottobah Cugano’s ‘Thoughts and Sentiments’, written in roughly the same period, argues against slavery. In the second half of the session we will look at the emergence of the hugely significant Protestant mission movement at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. Why did Protestants begin to care about Christian mission in this period, and how did Protestant mission activity relate to contemporary developments in European colonialism?

Required Reading

Richard Furman, ‘Exposition of the Views of the Baptists Relative to the Coloured Population of the United States in Communication to the Governor of South Carolina’ Charleston, 1823. Reprinted in Rogers, James A. Richard Furman: Life and Legacy (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1985), 274-286. December 24, 1822. https://glc.yale.edu/exposition-views-baptists-relative-coloured-population

Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, ‘Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Hujman Species, Humbly Submitted to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, by Ottobah Cugoano, a Native of Africa’, 145-184. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eccodemo/K046227.0001.001/1:5?rgn=div1;view=fulltext

Additional Reading

Francisco Bethencourt, ‘Abolitionism’ and ‘Classifications of Humans’ in Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 228-247 and 252-270.

Brycchan Carey, ‘”A practice so repugnant to our Christian profession”: Philadelphia and London, 1753-61’, From Peace to Freedom: Quaker Rhetoric and the Birth of American Antislavery, 1657-1761 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), 177-220.

Mark Noll, ‘The Crisis over the Bible’ in The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 31-50.

Rev Samuel Seabury, ‘American Slavery Distinguished from the Slavery of English Theorists and Justified by the Law of Nature’ (New York, 1861), https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/American_Slavery_Distinguished_from_the.html?id=ZfriHQIyN7oC&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

ADVANCED SEMINAR: ORIENTALISM

Edward Said’s Orientalism argues that the idea of ‘the Orient’ has been crucial to the idea of ‘the West’, and the Introduction to the book sets out some of the key arguments of the book as a whole. In the seminar we will discuss how Said’s argument help us to understand the histories and ideas we have considered elsewhere in the course.

Required Reading

Edward Said, ‘Introduction’ in Orientalism (London: Penguin, 2003), 1-29.

 

Week 9: The Bible and the Flag

In the first half of this week’s session we will discuss the required reading for the week. William Carey’s Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians is arguably the founding text of the modern Protestant missionary movement and sets out theological arguments for the importance of Christian missionary endeavour around the world. Kwok Pui-Lan’s Postcolonial Imagination talks about what theology looks like from the other side – that is, from the perspective of Christian communities around the world which have been shaped both by European colonialism and by Christian mission. Teju Cole’s short article, ‘The White Savior Industrial Complex’ talks about the relationship between contemporary Western philanthropy and aid work and these histories of European colonialism, mission and charity. In the second half of the session we will look at the history of Christianity amongst enslaved people in North America. What role did Christianity and other religious traditions play in Black culture and resistance to slavery?

Required Reading

William Carey, ‘Introduction and ‘Section 5’ in An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use means for the conversion of the heathens https://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/enquiry/anenquiry.pdf [Accessed 9 August 2018]

Kwok Pui-lan, ‘Chapter 1’ in Postcolonial Imagination & Feminist Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), 29-51.

Teju Cole, ‘The White Savior Industrial Complex’ in The Atlantic, 21 March 2012 https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/ [Accessed 9 August 2018]

Additional Reading

Jean and John Comaroff, ‘British Beginnings: Spirits of an Age, Signs of the Times’, in Of Revelation and Revolution: Christianity, Colonialism and Consciousness in South Africa (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1991), 49-85.

Andrew Porter, ‘Beyond the centenaries: missions versus empire, 1890-1914’ in Religion versus empire? British Protestant missionaries and overseas expansion, 1700-1914 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), 282-315.

 

Week 10: Black and Womanist Theology

In the first half of this week’s session we will discuss the two pieces of required reading for the week. James Cone’s Black Theology and Black Power was written towards the end of the civil rights movement and at the height of the Black Power movement; he makes a theological case in favour of Black Power, and criticises white Christians’ responses to the civil rights movement. Delores Williams’ Sisters in the Wilderness argues that Black theology (including the work of James Cone) has too often ignored the experience of Black women, and turns to the biblical story of Hagar to propose a womanist (Black feminist) theology. The second half of the session will consider the complex histories of racism, secularisation and religion in the twentieth century.

Required Reading

James Cone, ‘Toward a Constructive Definition of Black Power’ in Black Theology and Black Power (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2013), 5-30.

Delores Williams, ‘Hagar’s Story: A Route to Black Women’s Issues’ in Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1993), 15-33.

Additional Reading

Robert Beckford, ‘Uprising: A Genealogy of Black Resistance’ in Dread and Pentecostal: A Political Theology for the Black Church in Britain (Eugene, Or: Wipf and Stock, 2000), 95-130.

Michael N Jagessar and Anthony G Reddie, ‘Black Theology in Britain? Discerning a Rationale for this work’ in Black Theology in Britain: A Reader (London: Routledge, 2007), 21-50.

Delores S Williams, ‘Black Theology and Womanist Theology’ in The Cambridge Companion to Black Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 58-74.

 

ADVANCED SEMINAR: BLACK WOMEN’S LABOUR

Saidiya Hartman’s ‘The Belly of the World’ considers the role of gender in racial chattel slavery in North America. How does paying attention to the specific experience of Black women help us to understand slavery and the relationship between race and gender?

Required Reading

Saidiya Hartman, ‘The Belly of the World: A Note on Black Women’s Labors’ in Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society 18.1 (2016), 166-173.

 

Week 11: Christianity, White Supremacy and the West

There is no required reading for this week. We will spend the first half of the session considering the complex relationship between Christianity, religion, secularism and racism. Why do far right figures appeal to Europe’s Christian heritage, and how might we understand the links between the alt-right and the new atheism? We will spend the second half of the session practicing your presentations for the week 12 oral exams.

Additional Reading

Daniel Colucciello Barber, ‘Christianity, Religion, and the Secular’ in On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion and Secularity (Eugene, Or: Cascade Books, 2011), 88-115.

Tomoko Masuzawa, ‘Introduction’ in The Invention of World Religions: Or, How European Universalism was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2005), 1-36.

Hannah Strømmen, ‘Christian Terror in Europe? The Bible in Anders Behring Breivik’s Manifesto’ in Journal of the Bible and Its Reception 4.1 (2017), 147-169.

James Crossley, ‘Muslims, the “Perversion of Islam”, and Christian England on the (Far) Right’ in Cults, Martyrs and Good Samaritans: Religion in Contemporary English Politicsl Discourse (London: Pluto Press, 2018), 65-98.

Francisco Bethencourt, ‘The Impact of Nationalism’ in Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), 309-334.

Katie Grimes, ‘”Birtherism” and Anti-Blackness: The Islamic Ante-Life of Africanized Slavery’ in Political Theology 18.8 (2017), 709-729. Week 12: oral exams

 

Week 12. Oral exams

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