Chapter 25: Two Warring Ideals, One Dark Body: Hegemony, Duality, and Temporality of the Black Body in African-American Religion

Using as a hermeneutic Du Bois’s famous passage in The Souls of Black Folk concerning double-consciousness and the black body, the author attempts to interpret complex issues of embodiment. To that end, this chapter explores the phenomenon of the black body in African-American religion narrowly defined as Pentecostal-type Christian groups. He theorizes that black people’s experience of hegemony in the United States splits their consciousness regarding the body. The resulting sociocultural construction of the body in which the conflict was located reflected this split, the negation of the black body, and at the same time the valorization of the culture of oppression. This same duality is present in black religion where the bodily conflict is between religious ideals and the white cultural ideals. The author argues, however, that religious activity in African-American worship is counterhegemonic and offers a temporally located deconstructive response of the culture, and that ecstatic forms of religiosity create new spaces for the possibility of reconstituting the black body.