Blackness and (Dis)Belief
Professor Ashon Crawley
What is the thing we call “religious,” what is its object? What does this word, and this concept, index about relationality, about being in the world, about blackness? In this course, we will consider categories typically associated with a particular mode of thought and social reflection: mysticism, theism, theology, religion.
This course is about “Black Study,” the force of (dis)belief set loose in the world, disrupting institutionalization and abstraction of thought that produces the categorical distinctions of disciplinary knowledges. Black Study is an unbounded, holy, collective intellectual project that is fundamentally otherwise than an (inter)discipline. This course is about the relation of race, gender, sexuality and performance to concepts found within the domain and delimitation of religion. And performance can illustrate the conditions of emergence for antiphonal criticisms of normative theology and philosophy Throughout the course, we will be attentive to the historicity of performances as constituting an atheological-aphilosophical project, produced against the grain of liberal logics of subjectivity. By showing that theology and philosophy are abstractions of thought that produce the conceptual body as the target of racialization, the atheological-aphilosophical couplet indexes modes of intellectual practice that engulf and exceed such reductivism.
During the antebellum era, both clergy and scholars alike levied incessant injunctions against enthusiastic, bodily displays of piety, injunctions against loud singing and frenzied dancing in religion and popular culture. Calling for the relinquishment of these sensual spiritual experiences, I argue that these framing injunctions led to a condition where disbelief became a zone of inhabitation for otherwise than confessional sociality, disbelief in the conditions in which one exists while also utilizing the force of such disbelief to creatively practice living in an otherwise.
How is theology, as a branch of thought within the realm of the religious, grounded in the desire to produce modes of thought as categorical, and categorically different, from other modes of thought, and is how thought from within this zones is understood to operate as if this category and categorical difference is pure and purely cohesive? Our task is to investigate the delimitation of thought by considering performance; and our task is to ask what is the relation of performance to belief and disbelief?
January 9: Course Introduction
February 20: Where are we?
March 13: Final Reflections Due, 5:00pm