White Men's Magic: Scripturalization as Slavery

Overview

Characterizing Olaudah Equiano's eighteenth-century narrative of his life as a type of "scriptural story" that connects the Bible with identity formation, Vincent L. Wimbush's White Men's Magic probes not only how the Bible and its reading played a crucial role in the first colonial contacts between black and white persons in the North Atlantic but also the process and meaning of what he terms "scripturalization." By this term, Wimbush means a social-psychological-political discursive structure or "semiosphere" ...

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Overview

Characterizing Olaudah Equiano's eighteenth-century narrative of his life as a type of "scriptural story" that connects the Bible with identity formation, Vincent L. Wimbush's White Men's Magic probes not only how the Bible and its reading played a crucial role in the first colonial contacts between black and white persons in the North Atlantic but also the process and meaning of what he terms "scripturalization." By this term, Wimbush means a social-psychological-political discursive structure or "semiosphere" that creates a reality and organizes a society in terms of relations and communications. Because it is based on the particularities of Equiano's narrative, Wimbush's theoretical work is not only grounded but inductive, and shows that scripturalization is bigger than either the historical or the literary Equiano. Scripturalization was not invented by Equiano, he says, but it is not quite the same after Equiano.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"White Men's Magic profoundly transforms studies of the encounters between the North Atlantic and Black African worlds. In challenging the canonical reading of scriptures, Wimbush invents a new word. 'Scripturalization' is his inspired term to explicate the normalization of constructed meanings, veiling the social and political forces that control their interpretation. Wimbush's innovative method ties the life of the Bible irrevocably to the wider history of slavery and transatlantic movements. The black slave Equiano's autobiography will never be read in the same way again."—Gauri Viswanathan, author of Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief

"Wimbush has given us a remarkable and generative close reading: one which rightly repositions religion from the academic periphery to the core of Equiano's struggle to turn the key fetish of eighteenth-century Britain, the King James Bible, into an avenue of transformation for himself and other 'strangers' in the North Atlantic world. Further, drawing on his own experience and extensive knowledge of African American history he closes the conventional gap between the Black Atlantic elite and black folk as both make more of 'making do,' with the bible as a durable hub of power amid the shifting complexities of diaspora."—Grey Gundaker, Duane A. and Virginia S. Dittman Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, The College of William & Mary

"A wonderfully ex-centric book, seeking through the eighteenth century Olaudah Equiano's very 'interesting narrative' about himself to disentangle us all from the enslaving weave of early modern European black and white essentialisms underwriting still our fraught politics of identity. Wimbush puts unrelenting pressure on the sciatic 'scripturalized' nerve of this body politic. Many will yelp, I'm sure, repeatedly, underway toward a less up-tight, more mobile sense of our fledgling selves."—Leif E. Vaage, Associate Professor of New Testament, Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199344390
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2014
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 827,227
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Vincent L. Wimbush is Professor of Religion and Director of the Institute for Signifying Scriptures at Claremont Graduate University.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Prologue

Chapter One: "unbounded influence over the credulity and superstition of the people":
Magic as Slavery, Slavery as Magic

Chapter Two: "the white men had some spell or magic":
A Black Stranger's First Contact with White Men's Magic

Chapter Three: "every person there read the Bible":
Scripturalization as Matrix of White Men's Magic

Chapter Four: "to the Britons first the Gospel is preached":
Scripturalization in the Nationalization of White Men's Magic

Chapter Five: "in the Bible, I saw things new":
Scripturalization and the Mimetics of White Men's Magic

Chapter Six: "take the book and tell God to make them dead":
Scripturalization as White Men's Hegemony

Chapter Seven: "I could read it for myself":
Scripturalization, Slavery, and Agency

Epilogue
Bibliography
Index

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