Stephen C. FinleyJan 27, 2023
In and Out of This World
Material and Extraterrestrial Bodies in the Nation of Islam
Duke University Press 2022
With In and Out of This World: Material and Extraterrestrial Bodies in the Nation of Islam (Duke University Press, 2022), Stephen C. Finley, Inaugural Chair, Department of African and African American Studies at Louisiana State University, examines the religious practices and discourses that have shaped the Nation of Islam (NOI) in America. Drawing on the speeches and writing of figures such as Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Warith Deen Mohammad, and Louis Farrakhan, Finley shows that the Nation of Islam and its leaders used multiple religious symbols, rituals, and mythologies meant to recast the meaning of the cosmos and create new transcendent and immanent black bodies whose meaning cannot be reduced to products of racism. Whether examining how the myth of Yakub helped Elijah Muhammad explain the violence directed at black bodies, how Malcolm X made black bodies in the Nation of Islam publicly visible, or the ways Farrakhan’s discourses on his experiences with the Mother Wheel UFO organize his interpretation of black bodies, Finley demonstrates that the Nation of Islam intended to retrieve, reclaim, and reform black bodies in a context of antiblack violence. In our conversation we discussed the theoretical framework of In- or Out-of-place, the body as both as social and symbolic, Nation of Islam mythological and cosmological narratives , Elijah Muhammad’s theological vision for African Americans, Malcolm X’ focus on civil and human rights movements, Warith Deen Mohammed’s notions of race, the identity of “Bilalians,” Louis Farrakhan’s mystical extraterrestrial experiences, and women’s embodiment in the Nation of Islam.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at email@example.com.