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Divine DiscontentThe Religious Imagination of W. E. B. Du Bois$
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Jonathon S. Kahn

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195307894

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195307894.001.0001

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Pragmatic Religious Naturalism and the Binding of The Souls of Black Folk

Pragmatic Religious Naturalism and the Binding of The Souls of Black Folk

(p.49) 2 Pragmatic Religious Naturalism and the Binding of The Souls of Black Folk
Divine Discontent

Jonathon S. Kahn (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter is devoted to showing how Du Bois's greatest text, The Souls of Black Folk, represents an exemplary text of pragmatic religious naturalism. Du Bois uses the modalities of African American religion—its language, songs, concepts, and narratives—along with his explicit discursive writings about religion, to create, stitch, and bind Souls as a single, cohesive text on African American history and politics. The vocabulary of religion produces a Nietzschean genealogy that reinterprets the nature of America. To do this, he employs African American religious sources as a pragmatic religious naturalist. Du Bois understands religion as a naturalistic practice, as an historical product of human interpretation, as the efforts of historically situated actors. The chapter concludes by distinguishing the pragmatic religious naturalism of Souls from that of James, Dewey, and Santayana.

Keywords:   genealogy, pragmatic religious naturalism, religion, sorrow songs, narratives

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