American Prophecy: Race and Redemption in American Political by George Shulman

By George Shulman

Prophecy is the basic idiom of yankee politics—a biblical rhetoric approximately redeeming the crimes, affliction, and promise of a unique humans. but American prophecy and its nice practitioners—from Frederick Douglass and Henry Thoreau to Martin Luther King, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison—are infrequently addressed, not to mention analyzed, by way of political theorists. This paradox is on the middle of yankee Prophecy, a piece within which George Shulman unpacks and reviews the political which means of yank prophetic rhetoric. within the face of spiritual fundamentalisms that affiliate prophecy and redemption with dogmatism and domination, American Prophecy unearths connections among prophetic language and democratic politics, quite racial politics. Exploring how American critics of white supremacy have time and again remodeled biblical prophecy, Shulman demonstrates how those writers and thinkers have reworked prophecy right into a political language and given redemption a political that means. to ascertain how antiracism is associated with prophecy as a vernacular idiom is to reconsider political theology, recast democratic conception, and re-evaluate the bearing of faith on American political tradition. nonetheless, prophetic language isn't continuously liberatory, and American Prophecy continues a serious dispassion a few rhetoric that's either familiar and challenging.

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A second reason is that political theorists tend to orient themselves by canonical engagements with modernity in European rather than American terms, through the Holocaust rather than white supremacy, and so in genres other than prophecy, whose political revision in America remains theoretically unexplored. Prophecy goes missing if or when we theorists split politics and redemption, Europe and America, modernity and race. But focusing on modernity and race in America reveals prophetic practice remaking the relation of redemption and politics.

We seek in Continental philosophers a vocabulary post-Marxist, postidentity, and now postsecular. Obviously, European thinkers differ greatly among themselves in the ways they work through the Judeo-Christian legacies shaping late-modern political life. But our encounter has not been an occasion to take prophecy seriously in its biblical forms, let alone in its American figurations. Our work seems cut off from the place where we Americans live and from the prophetic voices haunting it. It is strange, really: Theorists read Agamben or Arendt on a genocide that Americans did not cause or experience directly, but not Douglass, W.

And we Americans are the peculiar, chosen people—the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. 34 As Rogin argues, this messianic project, of extending freedom to “political pagans,” takes jeremiadic form: “Since the Puritan founding, American history has proceeded by consciousness of decline from the faith of the founders and efforts at heroic renewal. ” He takes the prophet’s role in a jeremiad against a world grown dead in sin. The problem is not prophecy as such, he insists, but who uses it for what ends: For Bellah, William Lloyd Garrison and Eugene V.

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