Race and Religion in American History: Conference at Princeton, March 7-8, 2014
Most often when scholars of religion in America invoke “race,” they use the term to signal the inclusion of African Americans in their work rather than to mark a sustained engagement of racial categories, concepts, or the functions of race in a given context. In such cases, people of African descent alone bear the burden of racialization, and the failure to theorize race results in the reification of particularly American practices as obvious, transhistorical and universal. Even when scholars address “peoples of color” other than those of African descent as racialized, “race” serves not as an analytical category, but an interpretive shortcut for signaling social marginalization or outsider status, for example. And, for the most part, whiteness remains unmarked and uninterrogated. As such, the complex processes of racial construction, transformations in racial categories and identities, and the relation of religious belief and practice to these constructions remains surprisingly understudied in the field of American religious history. This conference will feature new research in which scholars theorize race and religion together, seek to discern the trajectory of historical developments, and consider interactions between race and religion in a comparative frame across religious affiliations and racial categorization.