During the nation’s bicentennial, a media phenomena captivated the attention of American reading and television audiences. Alex Haley’s award-winning work broached the contested role of black people in the United States. The novel and miniseries located blacks at the center of an American historical mythology and invited a redefintion of de facto American citizenship.
The persistent signification of Haley’s mythology in black cultural representations suggests that Roots entertains some semblance as a canon portrayal of African-American history in the minds of African-Americans in particular, Americans in general.
By placing Haley’s Roots with critical scriptural studies, my work presents a paradigm for an anthropology of scriptures–a language for discussing the work we humans make them do for ourselves and to others. This is the focus of my dissertation, Knowing One’s Roots: Alex Haley and the Anthropology of Scriptures (Claremont Graduate University, 2014).
Pieces of my research have been presented as part of the Institute for Signifying Scripture’s 2013 Brown Bag Lunch Series and the Society of Biblical Literature’s 2010 Annual Meeting’s in the African-American Biblical Hermeneutics Section themed “Talking Bible with the Ancestors: Emerging Voices in Biblical Scholarship.” It also was featured as part of In Media Res’ discussion on Race & TV.
Special thanks to the following organization(s) for their financial sponsorship: