American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political by George Shulman

By George Shulman

Prophecy is the elemental idiom of yankee politics—a biblical rhetoric approximately redeeming the crimes, discomfort, and promise of a unique humans. but American prophecy and its nice practitioners—from Frederick Douglass and Henry Thoreau to Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison—are hardly addressed, not to mention analyzed, by means of political theorists. This paradox is on the center of yankee Prophecy, a piece during which George Shulman unpacks and reviews the political that means of yank prophetic rhetoric. within the face of spiritual fundamentalisms that affiliate prophecy and redemption with dogmatism and domination, American Prophecy reveals connections among prophetic language and democratic politics, rather racial politics. Exploring how American critics of white supremacy have time and again transformed biblical prophecy, Shulman demonstrates how those writers and thinkers have reworked prophecy right into a political language and given redemption a political that means. to check how antiracism is associated with prophecy as a vernacular idiom is to reconsider political theology, recast democratic thought, and re-evaluate the bearing of faith on American political tradition. nonetheless, prophetic language isn't really continuously liberatory, and American Prophecy continues a severe dispassion a couple of rhetoric that's either generic and complex.

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Is it still necessary to argue that literary texts do profound theoretical or philosophical work? Is our range of references still constrained by the racial history behind the canon? As Baldwin and Morrison indeed argue, the legacy of modernity is divided because it is founded not only in the Enlightenment, but by slavery, which haunts American politics, cultural practices, and theoretical productions. Moreover, enlightenment remains entangled in faith, and secularism in religion, as the subjection and resistance of African Americans attests.

Denying separate “strands” of discourse, he makes the “liberal-communitarian” debate moot. Moving from consensus to hegemony to show cultural idioms as forms of power, he depicts dissent “contained” because the “form” of criticism renews both liberal axioms and a national frame. ” He thus distinguishes, not Falwell and Douglass, but Debs and Emma Goldman, or King and Malcolm X, to expose the hegemonic gravity defining how critics “must” speak to be legitimate. 43 Bellah, fearing marginality, seeks in prophecy a consensual ground for dissent; Bercovitch, fearing incorporation, affirms a critical marginality by refusing its hegemony.

If we refuse a national fantasy of inclusion, which justifies exclusion and devalues politics, we also should resist the fantasy of escaping the nation, which still is the organizing center of political life. From Thoreau to Morrison, these critics invoke and trouble national political identity by dramatizing what is costly, fantastical, and fateful in it. We conclude this chapter and enter the theory conversation about prophecy and politics, however, by reopening Bercovitch’s rejection of redemptive rhetoric: For he sees it sustaining national fantasy and displacing politics, while many contemporary political theorists also argue that theist and secular forms of redemption devalue political life.

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