Imagining New Stories of Race and Religion

We live our lives in stories. Stories tell us who we are, what we owe to others and the past, what worlds we inhabit in the present, and where we want to go in the future. They help us fight oppression, though they can also justify it, or make certain kinds of oppression invisible. If we can imagine new stories, we can change the world.

In this conversation-based course, facilitated during the spring 2021 semester by Professor David Hooker, participants explored narrative theory to examine the role of religion and race in local and global conflicts. 

Racialized narratives can create conflict, while certain narratives have the potential to heal and form community. Using case studies Professor Hooker was directly engaged in, participants explored how approaches to “religious” or “racial” history, mission, and dialogue contribute to local, regional, or global reconciliation efforts. 

Session 1: Georgia's Elections and the Capitol Riot

In January 2021, people across the United States watched two historic events unfold: Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won US Senate races in Georgia, making them the state’s first Black and Jewish senators, respectively; and rioters seeking to overturn the US presidential election breached the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. How did narratives of race and religion shape the conversation around these important events?

These important questions shaped the discussion for the opening class session.

Session 2: What is Race? What is Religion?

In the second session, participants considered how people think about and describe concepts like race and religion.

Session 3: Critical Race Theory—A Case Study in Exploring Narratives

What can a discussion of critical race theory tell us about different narratives, and how they might intersect and interact?

Session 4: Children’s Stories and Nursery Rhymes

An exploration of how children’s stories, nursery rhymes, and myths help to establish powerful racial and religious narratives.

Session 5: Constructing Counter-Narratives of Race and Religion

How might we construct counter-narratives to some of the dominant narratives of race and religion?

Session 6: Final Insights

In this closing conversation, participants reflect on the themes and topics they explored during this class, and what they learned from the experience.