Conjuring Culture: Biblical Formations of Black America

Paperback | April 30, 1999

byTheophus H. Smith

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This book provides a sophisticated new interdisciplinary interpretation of the formulation and evolution of African American religion and culture. Theophus Smith argues for the central importance of "conjure"--a magical means of transforming reality--in black spirituality and culture. Smithshows that the Bible, the sacred text of Western civilization, has in fact functioned as a magical formulary for African Americans. Going back to slave religion, and continuing in black folk practice and literature to the present day, the Bible has provided African Americans with ritualprescriptions for prophetically re-envisioning, and thereby transforming, their history and culture. In effect the Bible is a "conjure book" for prescribing cures and curses, and for invoking extraordinary and Divine powers to effect changes in the conditions of human existence--and to bring aboutjustice and freedom. Biblical themes, symbols, and figures like Moses, the Exodus, the Promised Land, and the Suffering Servant, as deployed by African Americans, have crucially formed and reformed not only black culture, but American society as a whole. Smith examines not only the religious andpolitical uses of conjure, but its influence on black aesthetics, in music, drama, folklore, and literature. The concept of conjure, he shows, is at the heart of an indigenous and still vital spirituality, with exciting implications for reformulating the next generation of black studies and blacktheology. Even more broadly, Smith proposes, "conjuring culture" can function as a new paradigm for understanding Western religious and cultural phenomena generally.

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This book provides a sophisticated new interdisciplinary interpretation of the formulation and evolution of African American religion and culture. Theophus Smith argues for the central importance of "conjure"--a magical means of transforming reality--in black spirituality and culture. Smithshows that the Bible, the sacred text of Weste...

Theophus H. Smith is at Emory University.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9.25 × 6.1 × 0.75 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195102819

ISBN - 13:9780195102819

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"A major book....What Smith has produced is an impressive African American cultural history."--American Literature