Re/membering the Sacred Womb: The Religious Cultures of Enslaved Women in Georgia, 1750-1861 Open Access

Wells, Alexis (2015)

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The era of enslavement remains one of the most significant moments in history for examining the emergence of African-American cultural forms through the study of religion, yet few historical studies have explored enslaved people's sacred cultures during the antebellum and colonial periods, and no full-length historical study has interrogated the relationship between female embodiment and the sacred cultures of southern bondspeople. Using Georgia between 1750 and 1861 as a case study, this dissertation posits that women's distinctive experiences of enslavement configured female sacred cultures, and further, that these cultures were central to demarcations of the sacred among women, men, and children in enslaved communities. Through an examination of enslaved women's ethical and "common sense" knowledge systems, sociocultural rites, presence in the sacred imagination, and institutional participation, the study proposes a gendered approach to the study of enslaved religiosity, with implications for the future deployment of the "slave religion" category in scholarship on African-American religion.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter One: Georgia Genesis: Dismemberment, (Re)creation, and the Temporalities of Enslaved Women's Lives 21

Chapter Two: The Sacred Womb: The Ethics and Common Sense of Enslaved Women's Lives 78

Chapter Three: Re/membered Cycles: Women and the Creative Power of Ritual in Enslaved Life 157

Chapter Four: It Looked Like a Woman: Women and the African-American Sacred Imagination 192

Chapter Five: Resignifying Sunday: Re/membering the Foundations of Enslaved Peoples' Sacred Lives 233

Conclusion 293

Bibliography 298

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