Black Visions of the Holy Land:
African American Christian Solidarities in Israel and Palestine
My dissertation, Black Visions of the Holy Land: African American Christian Solidarities in Israel and Palestine, is a study of religion and race in the context of contested global politics. Through a qualitative comparative analysis, including fieldwork conducted in the United States and in Israel-Palestine, I analyze transnational solidarities linking African American Christians with Israel and Palestine. These include a wide range of black church responses to the conflict—from pro-Israel Christian Zionists that work closely with the religious right, to Palestinian solidarity activists that emphasize a common emancipatory project between African Americans and Palestinians.
Using data from four case studies, I approach black religious politics as a contested social space, showing how some black church leaders construct congregational identities concerned with the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by grafting certain aspects of African American identity onto narratives about Israel and Palestine. I find that African American Christian engagement with Israel and Palestine is, in part, an expression of existing identities based on notions of shared black church culture. I also show how the issue of Israel and Palestine provides a new context for reworking the alignment of these existing identities in global terms. I argue that black religious politics is best understood in field theoretic terms as a contested social space where actors representing claims to the core identity of “the Black Church” compete for priority.