Liberation From the Ground Up: Christian Social Ethics and the Radical Imagination Restricted; Files Only

Orr, Joi (Spring 2021)

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For centuries, Black Americans have been dispossessed of land – a crime against humanity that has resulted in inequality, structural violence, and cycles of indebtedness. However, in contemporary scholarship, land’s relationship to black dispossession and black liberation has been marginalized in Christian social ethics. In neglecting land as a necessary component for Black liberation, I argue, Christian social ethics fails to dismantle the political logics and the social imagination of settler colonialism which perpetuates Black landlessness and suffering.

As an intervention in Christian discourses concerning African American liberation, I offer the radical imagination. My definition of the radical imagination is both descriptive and normative. Through historical study and fieldwork, I suggest that the radical imagination has been a hope for Black liberation that envisions Black folk reconnected to the land. This historical and ethnographic retrieval, I hope, will serve as source material for ethical deliberation. Normatively, I define the radical imagination as a hope and vision of Black people in right relation to the land as ordinary and mundane human praxis.

I derive the radical imagination through the construction and juxtaposition of counternarratives — a womanist methodology akin to ethicist Emilie M. Townes’ use of countermemories, which she employs to dismantle hegemonic imaginations and the cultural production of evil. In the context of this project, counternarratives represent an integration of history, microhistories, memory, and cultural data derived from ethnographic participant-observation. Specifically, I offer the counternarratives of Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Farm Cooperative, the Republic of New Afrika, and the Black Church Food Security Network as agrarian and land-centered socio-political movements. Ultimately, I hope these counternarratives of the radical imagination will inspire an Afro Christian Black liberation movement that moves humanity beyond the colonial logics of private property, unmitigated extraction, African American land dispossession, and antiblack racism.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Radical Imagination

Chapter 1: Landless

Chapter 2: Emerging States of Self-Determination

Chapter 3: Fugitive Networking: The Black Church Food Security Network

Chapter 4: “I Got a New World in My View”


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