Three Ways of Looking at an Invisible Man: Race, Religion, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Theology
Jan. 23rd, 5:30 – 7:00 pm
Woodburn Hall, Rm 004
What are the religious and theological dimensions of the concept of race? Ralph Ellison’s metaphor, “invisibility,” has become shorthand for social marginalization, marking race as a “secular” concept. Yet invisibility bears a longer metaphysical legacy that provokes intriguing possibilities for revising prevalent materialist conceptions of race at a time when the secular refers not simply to the absence of religion but to cultural structures and dimensions that function much in the way religion did in pre-modern times. This talk draws on historical and present-tense implications for invisibility in American and increasingly transnational contexts to suggest that Ellison offers an “invisible theology” that reframes religiously how we conceive of race historically, culturally, and politically amidst the indeterminacies of emerging global contexts.
M. Cooper Harriss received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and holds a Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches courses in American and African-American religion and culture. His writings examine the religious dimensions of Ralph Ellison’s concept of race and the concept of irony in African-American religion and culture, broadly construed.
Sponsored by the Department of Relgious Studies.