Joint William R. Scott Brown Bag: Africana Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Speaker: Christopher Driscoll, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion and Africana Studies
In 1971, The Last Poets named a psycho-social system in which race, gender, wealth, and other factors cause some people to act as if they are gods and others to fear they’ll become sacrificial offerings to these “gods.” They called it the White Man’s God Complex. In this presentation, I provide a snapshot of what constitutes this complex, then address the complex’s relationship to violence, arguing that this white man’s god complex is sustained by a particular brand of theism wherein “god” functions as a contingency formula (Luhmann, 2013) procuring a sense of certainty for some through the sacrifice of others. For instance, in 2012 George Zimmerman claimed that his killing of Trayvon Martin was “all god’s plan.” Contrary to what is assumed by many, that Zimmerman’s comments mark an egregious misuse of theism, I instead suggest that in light of the god complex he seemingly represents, he is using theism exactly as it is meant to function within any complex or system. This theism works symbiotically with physical and social deaths, each necessitating the function of the other. Understanding these sacrifices as the lynchpin allowing the god complex to remain intact, I conclude with suggestions about the necessity of, yet also the difficulties associated with, disrupting this white man’s god complex.
Christopher Driscoll, PhD (Rice University, 2014) is Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion and Africana Studies at Lehigh University. Some of his research interests include race, religion, culture, and humanist and existential thought. He is co-founder of the American Academy of Religion’s Critical Approaches to Hip Hop and Religion Group and a contributing editor for The Marginalia Review of Books. His first monograph, White Lies: Race and Uncertainty in the Twilight of American Religion will be published by Routledge in 2015.
Bring your own lunch. Beverages and dessert will be provided.