Honoring the Ancestors: An African Cultural Interpretation of Black Religion and Literature
Donald Matthews affirms once and for all the African foundation of African-American religious practice. His analysis of the methods employed by historians, social scientists, and literary critics in the study of African-American religion and the Negro spiritual leads him to develop a methodology that encompasses contemporary scholarship without compromising the integrity of African-American religion and culture. Because the Negro spiritual is the earliest extant body of African-American folk religious narration, Matthews believes that it holds the key to understanding African-American religion. He explores the works of such seminal black scholars as W. E. B. DuBois, Melville Herskovits, and Zora Neale Hurston, tracing the early development of the African-centered approach to the interpretation of African-American religion. This approach involves "cultural/structuralism", the author's term for the method used by DuBois, Herskovits, and Hurston that emphasizes the thick reading of narrative expressions. Such a reading allows the scholar to identify the cultural significance of particular oral and written texts and serves as a point of identification and a cultural link between African and African-American religion. Matthews' close analysis of the spiritual employs a dialectical and postmodernist reading and reveals a religious philosophy that addresses the deepest concerns and desires of Africans in America. These concerns are cultural, political, and psychological, but are ultimately related to African religious structures of meaning. This book poses a challenge to end the battle between Afrocentrists and multiculturalists by acknowledging their common intellectual heritage in the works of DuBois, Herskovits, and Hurston. It will be of great interest to students and scholars of African-American religion and culture and those interested in Afrocentric literature.
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African Amer African American community African American culture African American narrative African American religion African American spirituals African and African African cultural Afro-American analysis anthropology attempts Baker beliefs black aesthetic movement black church black community black cultural black literary criticism black literature black narration black religion black theologians blues call and response context cultural structures cultural-structural discourse divine DuBois and Hurston economic emphasis Equiano ethic European American evangelical Christian expression faith and feeling family and freedom Gates gospel music heritage hermeneutic Ibid ideology improvisation interpretation of African liberation meaning metaphor methodology mother movement narrative hermeneutic narrative theology Nate Shaw nature of African Negro Olaudah Equiano perspective political postmodern presence Raboteau racist rapetalistic oppression religion and culture reveals rican role scholars sexual Shaw's Signifying Monkey situation slave narratives slavery social songs themes tradition W. E. B. DuBois West African Western worship York Zora Neale Hurston