Polyamorous Bastards: James Baldwin and Desires of a Queer African-American Religious Naturalism.
Contribution to Book
Unsettling Science and Religion: Contributions and Questions from Queer Studies
Whitney Bauman and Lisa Stenmark
Lexington Press (Imprint of Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group)
Religion and Science as a Critical Discourse
In this chapter, I explore the rich conceptual space opened by Baldwin’s use of the bastard metaphor and his ensuing concept of love. Inspired by his creative reach, I specify bastard as a trope to mark the emergence of an African-American religious naturalism that resists normative (and, thus, impoverished) views of humanity. In negating pauperized views of blacks’ humanity perpetuated by white supremacy, this African-American religious naturalism invites readers to reconsider who and what we are: value-laden natural processes that become human in specific orientations. It presupposes human animals’ deep, inextricable homology with each other, drawing our attention to an expansive view of humanity as an emergent phenomenon, not an achievement. Building on Baldwin’s notion of love, my view of religiosity celebrates nomadic, polyamorous relations. With its naturalistic grounding, this model of African-American religiosity resists the “isms” based on binary constructions that uphold asymmetrical relationships and polarize our desire for connection with all that is. In so doing, it adopts a queer positionality –what Michael Warner described as resistance “to regimes of the normal.” As queer enactment, it calls for a radical relationality in which our experiences of love overcome arbitrary boundaries maintained by normalizing cultural markers, seeking a modality of existence based in transformation; a vision of expanded humanity as sentient beings is porous—we suffuse each other with care and a sense of belonging together.
White, Carol W., "Polyamorous Bastards: James Baldwin and Desires of a Queer African-American Religious Naturalism." (2018). Faculty Contributions to Books. 169.