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USU Hosts Two-Day 'Religion Unchained' Symposium

Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013

October 15, 2013

Source: College of Humanities and Social Sciences,

Contact: Kyle Bulthuis, (435) 797-1213,

USU Hosts Two-Day ‘Religion Unchained’ Symposium Symposium Explores the Secret Religious Lives of American Slaves

LOGAN — The vast topic of Black religious experience in America will be explored during a two-day event on the Utah State University campus Oct. 24 and 25. Scholars Albert J. Raboteau of Princeton, Yvonne P. Chireau of Swarthmore, Kyle T. Bulthuis of Utah State University, Jacob S. Dorman of the University of Kansas and Christopher Cameron of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte will each present talks that will reveal the secret religious lives of American slaves and explore the development of vibrant post-slavery black religious communities in America.

The event “Religion Unchained: The Development of Black Spiritualties in American History,” begins Oct. 24 at 4:30 p.m. in Old Main, Room 115, with a lecture by Raboteau entitled “Slave Religion and the Transformation of American Religious History.” Raboteau is the leading senior scholar of black religious experience in America. He is also the author of several important works on American religion, such as “Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South” (Oxford, 1978), a path-breaking study on slave religious experience.

On Oct. 25 the event continues, starting at 9:30 a.m. (in the Eccles Conference Center Room 201-203) with a presentation by Bulthius entitled “Still a Vital Center: Denominational Choices and the Black Church Experience.” Bulthuis is an historian of early America, religion, and race and slavery. His current work explores the establishment of the roots of the black church in the 18th-century Atlantic world.

Chireau will follow with her lecture “Conjure, Hoodoo and the Margins of African American Religions.” Chireau is an authority on the complicated belief systems of African-based religions in America, such as Santeria and Voodoo, and also focuses on the fields of religion and healing, women’s religious experience and religion in popular culture. She is the author of “Black Magic: African American Religion and the Conjuring Tradition.”

The symposium will continue at 1 p.m. with the lecture by Dorman “Rethinking Center and Margins: the Centrality of African American Alternative Religions.” Dorman’s wide-ranging academic interests explore the intersection of race, religion and culture and include considerations of music, the Harlem Renaissance, Rastafarianism and contemporary Black and Jewish identities. His first book, “Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Traditions,” was a path-breaking study of the development of black Judaism in America, and won the Byron Caldwell Smith book prize.

Christopher Cameron of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte will follow with “Slavery and the Rise of African American Humanism.” Cameron is an authority in the fields of slavery and abolitionist studies and in American religious and intellectual history. His current work uncovers the often-overlooked communities of African American humanists, agnostics and atheists in American history from the 18th century to the present.

The symposium is presented by Utah State University’s Religious Studies Program in the Department of History and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. All events are free and open to the public. For more information contact Kyle Bulthuis at (435) 797-1213.

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