Anna Della SubinJun 25, 2023
On Race, Empire, and Men Unwittingly Turned Divine
Metropolitan Books 2021
Ever since 1492, when Christopher Columbus made landfall in the New World and was hailed as a heavenly being, the accidental god has haunted the modern age. From Haile Selassie, acclaimed as the Living God in Jamaica, to Britain's Prince Philip, who became the unlikely center of a new religion on a South Pacific island, men made divine—nearly always men—have appeared on every continent. And because these deifications always emerge at moments of turbulence—civil wars, imperial conquest, revolutions—they have much to teach us.
In Accidental Gods: On Race, Empire, and Men Unwittingly Turned Divine (Metropolitan Books, 2021), Anna Della Subin presents a revelatory history spanning five centuries of a cast of surprising deities that help to shed light on the thorny questions of how our modern concept of "religion" was invented, why religion and politics are perpetually entangled in our supposedly secular age, and how the power to call someone divine has been used and abused by both oppressors and the oppressed. From nationalist uprisings in India to Nigerian spirit possession cults, Subin explores how deification has been a means of defiance for colonized peoples. Conversely, we see how Columbus, Cortés, and other white explorers amplified stories of their godhood to justify their dominion over native peoples, setting into motion the currents of racism and exclusion that have plagued the New World ever since they touched its shores.
Anna Della Subin is a writer, critic, senior editor at Bidoun, the award-winning publishing and curatorial initiative focused on the Middle East and its diasporas, and a contributing editor at The Public Domain Review. Her work has appeared in many prestigious publications such as the London Review of Books, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and more. Anna Della was named one of the world’s top 50 thinkers for 2022 by Prospect Magazine. She studied philosophy and classics at the University of Chicago and the history of religion at Harvard Divinity School.