A Radical Vision of Religious and Democratic Belonging
Published by: Stanford University Press
232 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm
- ISBN: 9781503631625
- Published: May 2022
In Azusa Reimagined, Keri Day explores how the Azusa Street Revival of 1906, out of which U.S. Pentecostalism emerged, directly critiqued America's distorted capitalist values and practices at the start of the twentieth century. Employing historical research, theological analysis, and critical theory, Day demonstrates that Azusa's religious rituals and traditions rejected the racial norms and profit-driven practices that many white Christian communities gladly embraced.
Through its sermons and social practices, the Azusa community critiqued racialized conceptions of citizenship that guided early capitalist endeavors such as world fairs and expositions. Azusa also envisioned deeper democratic practices of human belonging and care than the white nationalist loyalties early U.S. capitalism encouraged. In this lucid work, Day makes Azusa's challenge to this warped economic ecology visible, showing how Azusa not only offered a radical critique of racial capitalism but also offers a way for contemporary religious communities to cultivate democratic practices of belonging against the backdrop of late capitalism's deep racial divisions and material inequalities.
This book explores how Azusa's religious life embodied a critique of America's racial-capitalist order. The political economy in which the Azusa Revival was situated has received scant attention. Yet Azusa was responsive to problems of racial capitalism in the United States. This religious community rejected the commodifying and exploitative practices of American industrial expansionism through its religious life. By foregrounding American economic expansionism and the racial logics that undergirded such economic practices at the turn of the twentieth century, I illuminate the countercultural forms of political agency that Azusa embodied in response to America's distorted ways of life.
This chapter explores the American capitalist vision of Pentecost near the turn of the twentieth century. In particular, I retrieve the stories of two world fairs, the Philadelphia World Fair of 1876 and the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893, because of the religious vision of Pentecost they explicitly articulate in talking about America as a future cosmopolitan utopia. The American idea of Pentecost was married to a form of white nationalistic industrial capitalism. I therefore interpret the political character of the Azusa revival within this broader white nationalist discourse on Pentecost that emerged near the turn of the twentieth century.
Chapter 2 turns to how Azusa asserted its religio-political agency against the industrial capitalist backdrop, primarily by contesting evangelical and market orthodoxies. I thickly describe what sits at the center of Azusa's experience: slave religious practices. Such practices at Azusa challenged white Evangelical orthodoxy, which described this kind of black religiosity as demonic, primitive, and savagely wild. Through slave religious practices, the Azusa community contested how white Evangelical orthodoxy participated in the American capitalist process of treating black bodies as commodified property and human excess. Moreover, Azusa challenged the market orthodoxies of early capitalism through its rejection of a consumeristic "moneyed" eschaton that guided white and educated black churches alike.
Chapter 3 explores how although black women domestic workers were treated as disposable within the matrices of American political economy, they become the figures that ignited and shaped the Azusa movement. It is important to highlight the religious leadership and cultural practices of black women domestic workers who were central to Azusa yet treated as insignificant within American capitalist processes. Black women were not mere participants at Azusa; they were central to its founding and shaping, proving that they were subjects and not merely objects of the rich white elite or black patriarchal contexts.
Chapter 4 explores how Azusa's liturgical and sacramental forms of religious life challenge the erotic life of racialized capitalism. Queer theorists have focused on how capitalist processes and practices produce and manufacture erotic desires. Within America's growing industrial economy, intimate and erotic lives were commodified, assigned value, commercialized, and packaged for consumption. American capitalism thrived off the erotic life of racism, as the nation's market machinery depended upon particular kinds of white racial bonding and belonging to thrive. However, Azusa's erotic patterns of intimacy and communion across racial, gender, and class differences, what I refer to as erotic fugitivity, challenged these patterns of white racial bonding and belonging that were in service to the market.
Chapter 5 explores how Azusa embodied a sweeping critique of American democracy under racial capitalism, challenging how American political institutions ordered common life. The chapter seeks a complex range of ways to understand the relationship between ecclesial and political life that exceeds the horizon of the state and American capitalism, and shows how Azusa's apocalyptic sensibilities rethinks the political within and beyond the American capitalist state.
Chapter 6, the final chapter, suggests how religious communities might rethink the modes and moods of democratic belonging for today in the wake of Azusa's legacy. Azusa's religious life not only offers a radical critique of early modern racial capitalism but also a way for contemporary religious communities to envision democratic practices of belonging against the backdrop of neoliberal capitalism's deep racial divisions and material inequalities. This chapter argues that we must practice "grave attending" (in the words of religious scholar Karen Bray) to those trapped within the demonic circuits of racial capitalism in order to cultivate political moodiness.
"Day's account of the democratic possibilities of life unleashed by the feminist and womanist founding of black Pentecostalism is groundbreaking. This book will redirect moral philosophy and political theology for generations." ~Willie James Jennings, Yale University
"Azusa Reimagined offers a pathway out of racial capitalism and a radical religious means to advance democracy, all based on Day's analysis of early Pentecostalism. This is a stunning, theoretically groundbreaking book." ~David D. Daniels III, McCormick Theological Seminary
"Cogent and revelatory in its analysis, this is the book for which we have been waiting! Day seamlessly ties the origins of black Pentecostalism to a progressive politics that challenged America's status quo." ~Marla Frederick, Emory University