Institute for Signifying Scriptures 

‘The Yoruba Sango and Jesus in Judgement’ explores tropes of power in human relations, especially as these help our understanding towards comparative scriptures—in the things that scriptures do, are made to do/are used to do, rather than what they mean à la Vincent L. Wimbush, scholar of Religion and Director Institute for Signifying Scriptures  (Theorizing Scriptures). Persons and communities often arm and equip themselves with what they consider to be divinely-inspired explanations of the supernatural origins and ownership of their “owned scripture.”

Subsequently, as psycho-political instruments, users of scriptures activate and deploy same in socio-cultural contexts in order to allow scriptures do stuff for them, not merely as conduits of hermeneutics; after all, messages from the gods require a messenger to deliver them.

This paper uses the theme of fury from two cultures—ancient-contemporary Yoruba and first-century Christianity, in juxtaposition with the deployment and use of anger, threat, and punishment in the US Presidency of Donald Trump—to examine scripture as an Anglo-freighted concept for the imaginaries of power and privilege, or as a response to both power and privilege.

First of all, who is Sango, and what is his connection with fury? How does establishment of a Sango-fury nexus help our definitions in Religious Studies? Does engaging these subjects—Sango, fury, and scripture—help us in understanding Donald Trump as a Christian and politician: a businessman sui generis? Therefore, this paper is preoccupied with providing responses to the above issues, questions, and concerns, in relation to the use of scripture in a power forge.

“President” Oprah Winfrey Takes Charge, Pushes the Button

The power of the television in shaping thinking in America yet again came alive on Sunday evening when what began as an ordinary event gave birth to a chorus: Oprah for president. The “sacred” seat of the American president is one of awe and wonder. Those who sit in that position may not fully understand that until they are unseated, whether naturally, tenure expiration or by popular demand.On the 7th day of January 2018, billionaire media mogul, Oprah Winfrey, became the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. de Mille Award.

Below are the full transcripts of her speech during the Golden Globes 2018. In her acceptance speech, which many see as a political statement towards a foreseeable presidential ambition, Oprah made statements that resonated with Americans on several levels. While there is not an iota of doubt that Oprah is an influencer in her general and will be for a long time to come, there are arguments as to whether she understands what it means or takes to be a president of the United States.It is interesting that Americans are one of the finest producers of scriptures on earth. Loving religiousness and its politics, America presents the study of religion with endless opportunities for exploring the terror and grip of belief upon the human psyche. But, no other time presents a better chance than now to examine where the birth of a nation may lead!

“In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for best actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope and said five words that literally made history: “The winner is Sidney Poitier.” Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white, and of course his skin was black, and I had never seen a black man being celebrated like that. I tried many, many times to explain what a moment like that means to a little girl, a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in “Lilies of the Field”:“Amen, amen, amen, amen.”In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille award right here at the Golden Globes and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. It is an honor — it is an honor and it is a privilege to share the evening with all of them and also with the incredible men and women who have inspired me, who challenged me, who sustained me and made my journey to this stage possible.

Dennis Swanson who took a chance on me for “A.M. Chicago.” Quincy Jones who saw me on that show and said to Steven Spielberg, “Yes, she is Sophia in ‘The Color Purple.’” Gayle who has been the definition of what a friend is, and Stedman who has been my rock — just a few to name.I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know the press is under siege these days. We also know it’s the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice. To — to tyrants and victims, and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories. Each of us in this room are celebrated because of the stories that we tell, and this year we became the story.But it’s not just a story affecting the entertainment industry. It’s one that transcends any culture, geography, race, religion, politics, or workplace. So I want tonight to express gratitude to all the women who have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.And there’s someone else, Recy Taylor, a name I know and I think you should know, too.

In 1944, Recy Taylor was a young wife and mother walking home from a church service she’d attended in Abbeville, Alabama, when she was abducted by six armed white men, raped, and left blindfolded by the side of the road coming home from church. They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone, but her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice. But justice wasn’t an option in the era of Jim Crow. The men who tried to destroy her were never persecuted. Recy Taylor died ten days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.Their time is up. And I just hope — I just hope that Recy Taylor died knowing that her truth, like the truth of so many other women who were tormented in those years, and even now tormented, goes marching on. It was somewhere in Rosa Parks’ heart almost 11 years later, when she made the decision to stay seated on that bus in Montgomery, and it’s here with every woman who chooses to say, “Me too.” And every man — every man who chooses to listen.

In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave.


Oprah Winfrey Oprah Winfrey (source: National Broadcasting Corporation)

Oprah Winfrey Oprah Winfrey (source: National Broadcasting Corporation)

To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere and how we overcome. I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights. So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “Me too” again.

Islam, Identity, and Postcolonial Politics in Nigeria

Proselytization proclivities downplay the historical and cultural significance of Islam and its civilization in West Africa. This is a general introduction as well as an entry into the making of contemporary Islam in West Africa: its routes and reasons for expansion. Considering the fact that a postmodern discourse on Islam in the region tends to ignore ongoing spatial contests between the religion and its other dominantly axial partner, Christianity, in establishing presence and de-stabilizing essence of the ordered other.

The piece uses the case of Nigeria as an example of the use of religious expansionism for purposes that Vincent L. Wimbush terms scripturalization: the phenomenon and use of scripture [a freighted concept for power] in negotiating community and stakes.

Rosemary Graham-Naigba and the Feminization of Niger Delta Activism

More often than not, media representations and social portrayals of activism in the Niger Delta convey the characteristic Eurocentric chauvinism of geopolitical assumptions.
Activism is not a new phenomenon in the Niger Delta. During the colonial era, an Ijawman, Garrick Sokari Braide, became the face of social protest, when, through his religio-spiritual activities being his own reading and interpretations of the Biblical Holy Spirit phenomenon, preached won a large followership over to himself. His ministrations challenged status quo and had significant socio-economic impacts. As revenues from alcohol and other British trades dwindled, the colonial administration blamed Braide

The Ijaw Women Connect (IWC), founded by Rosemary Aken Graham-Naigba, conveys and articulates a radical alternative to status quo activism in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Although there are abundant justifications for social justice activism in the Niger Delta, for too long, most have not been founded or based lasting ideological principles. Hence, governments and other key players such as the multinational oil companies have taken advantage of this porosity or lack of critical philosophy.
Rosemary Graham-Naigba describes herself and the IWC as difference makers. In this piece, I intend to examine the intersections of gender, class, and culture in the categorization of activists in the Niger Delta. I also consider the historical roles of colonization and hegemony in the distribution of justice in Nigeria.

Mildred Bond Roxborough Oral History Video Interview conducted by Julian Bond in New York, New York, 2010-10-29

http://www.loc.gov/item/afc2010039_crhp0002

American Heritage through the Lens and Mobilities of Confederate Icons

In this piece, David Olali examines the seeming innocuousness that heritage icons assume, with their predisposition towards narratives of nativization, where they take on new social and cultural life, with the appertaining implications of meanings appended to them. Following Jacqueline Jones’ argument—on the myth of race—in Dreadful Deceit (2013), Olali argues that symbols, while they are capable of conveying intents, including racialized ones, are of themselves, as in understanding scripture tropes, not racist, but the people who deploy them could either be and/or are purveyors of racist agenda before transferring it to such icons! But that, too, depends on the task or deployment to which such “racist” icons are put.

David Olali’s Review of Divining the Woman of Endor: African Culture, Postcolonial Hermeneutics, and the Politics of Biblical Translation by Jeanne Kabamba Kiboko

Biblical scholar Jeanne Kabamba Kiboko offers a compelling case for a postcolonial reading of the biblical woman of Endor. In Diving the Woman, a subversive reading of Eurocentric “conquest exegesis” (230), Kiboko successfully executes her proposition “to analyze, to resist, and to reconstruct the so-called canonical literature” (xxix) given that “I am now a biblical interpreter and translator for postcolonial Africa (xxx). While this book problematizes Kiboko’s interests in the subject of divinatory practices as it relates to “1 Sam 28 at the Disanga,” her insertion of an alternative reading of the translated texts—unto othered, colonized cultures such as her Kisanga in the Congo—her “disordering process” (xxix) breaks the “carefully and strictly controlled” (5) “penalty one endured” (85), with a valorization which eminently privileges philological legerdemain and exegetical prioritizations over the psychosocial determinants of “the practice evil of divination” (104).

Bookended by a “Prologue” and an “Epilogue,” the seven-chapter Woman of Endor lavishly excavates the demonization by translating indigenous ways of knowing, or mediumistically gaining access into the divine spheres of the supernatural world. As “the first female to be ordained in the Southern Congo Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church [SCAC]” (xxiv), Kiboko crosses the established hermeneutical boundaries with “freedom, power, and authority” (62). However, her “faith in the text” seems to exhibit, for a self-proclaimed African feminist (63) theorist, a partially—but equally troubling—obliviousness to the acute presence and agentiality in translation transactions; she could not emphasize enough the bane of the struggle in translation: power and knowledge claim. To translate is to arrogate knowledge and by so doing privilege a medium, a language, a text/textuality/literacy. Kiboko does the latter very profusely for, as a translator herself, she tells us that “translators control the inner-biblical debate by deciding to demonize the woman’s divinatory practice” (106).

Understandably, as a Western-trained priest resident in the United States, a ravenously modern exemplar in empire configurations and appurtenances, Kiboko recognizes “the most common impetuses to use divination” (84), including “prophylactically” (83), and in countering the dilemma of “suffering, both individual and corporate” (84).

Clearly, the woman of Endor is a witch, not only due to her divinatory powers, but also given that her “magical” practices fall outside of canonical ordering, and beyond the Yahwistic agenda, and the religious limitations on the Israelite monarchy. Even though Kiboko provides a strategically useful translation of 1 Sam 28 in the Hebrew-Kisanga flow, her suggestively, exclusivist mimicry of the English ideological assumptions about the need to be translated, first and foremost, reifies, and participates in, the dynamics and socio-politics of transatlantic mobility/mobilization and immobility/immobilization of meaning.

Over all, in terms of its critical inputs to biblical and religious studies, Woman of Endor unveils the broad ramifications of mistranslation; in the narrowest sense Kiboko— through the miscategorization, displacement, and silencing of alternative or subaltern voice(s) of the (wo)man of Endor— gives the field/practitioners/authorial a “periscopic” something which facilitates, rethinking, resisting, and renegotiating congealing attitudes about scripture(s) and what roles they play in our lives, and vice versa.

About the Reviewer: David Olali is founder and director of the Comparative Heritage project.

SOURCE: Reading Religion a project of American Academy of Religion

Interested in doing review? Email reviews to info@comparativeheritage.org

Why Comparative Heritage is Important

The reasons why “Comparative Heritage” is important are not immediately obvious, and for obvious reasons, too.  First, nearly everyone feels comfortable talking about the positive and nice sides about their history.  And again, that happens too often, for obvious reasons.  Conversations around “heritage” often always assume a monotonous definition about some distant past, woven around the fine memories of the heritage inheritors.  It feels like talking some nice things about an ancestor.   Or, in another way, with “heritage,” one might assume that by that is meant our collective memory of the past, and how those moments past had shaped (us into) the present. These are ways, but not the only ones, of looking at heritage.

Fundamentally, Comparative Heritage (CHER) transitioned from Living Effective Heritage, to accomodate some critical reflections and thought-provoking conversations on “what is often implied, meant, done, unsaid/stated with heritage.”

So what’s the significance of that?

While the Comparative Heritage in unable to claim that it has the perfect panaceas to the hydra-headed conundrums of psychosocial and econopolitical dilemmas,  CHER brings in a rather unique trajectory into the conversation on social and cultural formations, community understandings and transformations, as well as what humans do with themselves along the lines of defining heritage–individualistically and communistically.

Every culture of violence begins with the privileging of one heritage construct over and against (others).  Take some historical examples for illustration: Bosnia, Arab-Jewish, Nigeria-Biafra (Hausa/Igbo).  An even closer-at-home example is the subject of racism as a global evil domiciled in the United States.  While the dominant meaning/understanding of racism is often linked to color– many cultures around the world deem that “white people” are ghosts/spirits/apparations)–by racism here is meant racial bigotry, which is not exclusive to skin color imaginings!

Central, therefore, to understanding the work of the Comparative Heritage project and the conversations it facilitates are its inclusiveness of the subjects, social landscapes, and topics that fall beyond the center, straddling the peripheries, into the domain of human d/evolving and innovative capacity for invention; where there are no lacking in the foregoing, history is witness to the unrestrained will of the human person, not only to master nature or to conquer natural forces but also to desperately pursue after power for the ultimate subjugation of their fellow humans.

Comparative Heritage begins with the initial theoretical assumption that heritage is the cycle that wheels human beings. Due to the human imaginative power and capacity to draw from the past, both real or invented, heritage becomes a negotiating tool, which often develops into fully comprehensible suppressive political weapons of social ordering.

Whether for good or ill, “heritage” deserves a second, critical look.  It is this benefit of the doubt which permits us the opportunity to begin to develop basic initiatives for respect and understanding for the legitimacy of others who do not belong in our own circle of heritage.