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Between Exodus and Egypt: Malcolm X, Islam, and the ‘natural’ religion of the oppressed

Hartnell, Anna (2008) Between Exodus and Egypt: Malcolm X, Islam, and the ‘natural’ religion of the oppressed. European Journal of American Culture 27 (3), pp. 207-226. ISSN 1466-0407.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ejac.27.3.207/1

Abstract

Malcolm X’s life and career offers a window through which to analyze the interactions between race and religion in the post-slavery experience of African Americans. This essay traces the trajectory of Malcolm’s two religious conversions, and his evolving sense that Christianity is the backbone of white supremacy and western imperialism, where Islam is the natural religion of the oppressed. This journey, I suggest, features the eclipse of the ‘Exodus’ motif – that has been so central to much black religiosity since slavery – to make way for the centralization of the ‘Egypt’ metaphor; thus identifications with Jews are displaced by associations with black and Muslim diasporas. However, exploration of this movement from ‘Exodus’ to ‘Egypt’ illuminates not a smooth transition but rather a complex and ongoing interaction between the two motifs, interactions that question the notion that any singular religious identity offers an ‘authentic’ experience for oppressed peoples. I suggest that Malcolm X’s negotiation between what emerge as the competing modalities of race, religion and nation offer an insight into those forces that shape expressions of ‘black religion’ today.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Arts > English and Humanities
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2011 11:18
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:22
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/4409

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