Mulatto Theology: Race, Discipleship, and Interracial Existence

Mulatto Theology: Race, Discipleship, and Interracial Existence

Duke University
290 pages

Brian Keith Bantum, Assistant Professor of Theology
Seattle Pacific University

Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Religion in the Graduate School of Duke University

To exist racially “in-between,” being neither entirely of one race nor another, or more simply stated being a mulatto or interracial, has been characterized in the outlook that tends to mark existence in the modern world as a tragic state of being. It is from this outlook of loneliness and isolation that the term the “tragic mulatto” emerged. The dissertation Mulatto Theology: Race, Discipleship, and Interracial Existence will theologically interpret these lives so as to interrogate the wider reality of racialized lives that the mulatto’s body makes visible. As such, mulatto bodies are modulations of a racial performance in which all are implicated. The mulatto’s body is significant in that it discloses what is most pronouncedly masked in modern (and particularly white) identities.

Culture, identities (individual and communal) are not only interconnected, but they are mixtures where peoples become presenced in the lives and practices of other “alien” peoples. This mixture requires careful reflection upon the formation of all identities, and the ways in which these identities become visible within the world. Given this arc of identity any reflection upon Christian identity must articulate itself within the inherent tensions of these identities and the practices that mark such identities within the world. Through this work I hope to show how European theology itself has failed to account for its own dominant enclosure of identities, but also how Christian reflection itself might find a way out of this tragic reality.

In examining the formation and performance of mulatto bodies this dissertation suggests these bodies are theologically important for modern Christians and theological reflection in particular. Namely, the mulatto’s body becomes the site for re-imagining Christian life as a life lived “in-between.” The primary locus of this re-imagination is the body of Christ. A re-examination of theological reflection and Scripture regarding his person and work display his character as uniquely mulatto, or the God-man. But not only is his identity mulatto, but his person also describes the nature of his work, his re-creation of humanity. So understood Christian bodies can be construed as “interracial” bodies—bodies of flesh and Spirit that disrupt modern formations of race. The Christian body points to a communal reality where hybridity is no longer tragic, but rather constitutive of Christian discipleship. This new, hybrid and “impure” way of existing witnesses to God’s redemptive work in the world.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Part I – Renunciation: Racial Discipleship; or Disciplining the Body
    • Chapter 1 – I Am Your Son White Man! The Mulatto and the Tragic
    • Chapter 2 – Neither Fish Nor Fowl: Presence as Politics
  • Part II – Confession: Christ, the Tragic Mulatto
    • Chapter 3 – What Child is This? or How can this Be? The Mulatto Christ
    • Chapter 4 – I Am the Way: Mulatto Redemption and the Politics of Identification
  • Part III – Immersion: Christian Discipleship; or The New Discipline of the Body
    • Chapter 5 – You Must Be Re-Born: Baptism Mulattic Re-Birth
    • Chapter 6 – The Politics of Presence: Discipleship and Prayer
  • Bibliography
  • Biography

Read the entire dissertation here.

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