Yet with a Steady Beat: Contemporary U.S. Afrocentric Biblical Interpretation

By Randall C. Bailey | Go to book overview

YET WITH A STEADY BEAT: THE TASK OF AFRICAN
AMERICAN BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS

Carolyn M. Jones University of Georgia

The questions raised by the essays in Yet with a Steady Beat are interlocking ones about the function of metaphor in African American self and cultural understanding. These essays raise the following questions. First, what are the available models for creating an African American discourse on agency and community? What metaphors are available and viable, and how do both those who are religious people and those who are engaged in artistic representations in the black community use them? Second, the essays raise questions similar to those of African scholars such as Chinua Achebe concerning the [oppressor's tongue] (74). How do and can African Americans use the oppressor's language to attain liberation? Finally, Edward Said speaks of the problem of traveling theory, citing a conflict inherent in re-presentation. What a text means in its original location is transformed, Said argues, as that theory travels—and sometimes in destructive ways (241–42). These essays examine the implications of the [travel] of biblical myth into America and the implications of its ideological, political, and religious use for African Americans. For what are these stories, these representations? How does use of the available metaphors lead to a more just society?

Hermeneutics is about, above all, bridging. The hermeneutic space is that space between opposites—usually self/other—in which a transaction, negotiation, conversion, or meeting takes place (Bentley: 6, 8). The hope of the hermeneutic interpretative work is that a relation will be established and that an understanding can be reached. Hermeneutics, in the black experience, has, in my understanding, different concerns than traditional hermeneutics, and those understandings are explored in these essays. I understand that traditional hermeneutics is about, finally, the self, not the other with whom the self comes into negotiation. Self moves toward its horizon through the understanding of the other, which becomes, in one way or another, part of the self (Gadamer: 271–72). Such a luxury has and has not been available to African Americans, who have

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