Toward a Theory of Reciprocity: Constructing a Hermeneutic of Relationally for Black Theological Discourse
Hills, Darrius D'wayne
Pinn, Anthony B.
Doctor of Philosophy
There is a blind spot in the theological discourses among black men. Particularly, as womanist scholars have correctly observed, black male theologians have not taken seriously the complexities of sexism and gender identity formation as serious problems within black religious studies in North America. Because of the premium placed upon black male voices and black male leadership within religious and political organizations, the discipline of black theology, if left unchecked, is doomed to continue dismissing black women’s perspectives. This project suggests that a plausible alternative in response to the dearth of attention to sexuality and gender within black theological discourses among black men, involves a reinterpretation of human personality, community, and connection. To this end, this dissertation frames a vision of human relationships in which the above concerns regarding the correction of sexism and the dismissal of black women’s perspectives are addressed. I argue that black theological method, informed by a theory of reciprocity rooted in womanist conceptions of human relationality, offers a useful way to address the lack of critical attention to sexism and misogyny in black theology. Making use of womanist religious thought, African American literature, philosophical ethics, and gender studies to frame a new interpretation of human relationships, this dissertation constructs a theory of reciprocity meant to expand and furthermore, suggest how a reconstruction of the understanding of human relationships and human identity has potential to reconfigure harmful manifestations of black masculinity that often find expression in black religious communities and theological scholarship.