Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

Black women’s religious faith has been found to be integral to their survival (Harris-Perry 2011) in a world that many times chooses to marginalize them due to a host of factors, including their race, gender, and expressions of sexuality (Collins 1996; Morgan 2000) meaning that for black women religion is more than a simple denominational label (such as Lutheran, Catholic, or Baptist). Black women’s involvement in the Black Church has been covered from a variety of angles with researchers noting the importance of African American women to the success of many black churches (Evans 2001), the benefits such faith practice has on their self-esteem (Bauer et al. 2017), and the avenues for leadership and advancement such involvement provides (Carpenter 1989). Though much of the sexism that pervades the black church (Best 2006) has been critiqued and challenged by a variety of feminist and religious scholars, there still stands a gap in the literature about black religious women’s agency in engaging specific ideologies related to their faith, their gender, or their race.

In this dissertation, I identify three distinct but interrelated aspects/processes of black religious women’s interaction with feminism: signification, identification, and reconciliation. Interviews with 30 women within one church, coupled with several hours of ethnographic field notes, provided insight into black religious women’s signification of the helpmate identity, varying identification as feminist, and reconciliation of a religious feminist identity. These women’s truth about their hunger for their faith, their love for their partners and families, and their demand for self-respect within their homes and places of worship provided a glimpse into what intersectional living looks like when one’s race, gender, and religion bears upon her sociopolitical and personal politic.

Date

4-5-2018

Committee Chair

Martin, Lori L

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