Complex Subjectivity: Anthony Pinn’s Liberal Ir/religion

Roy Whitaker

Pinn argues that black religion at its core is a struggle for complex subjectivity. This paper argues that Pinn’s very corpus is an exercise in complexity subjectivity theory-making, or a Fanonian-Nietzschean’s Übermensch desire for self-overcoming and self-survival in a wretched, dehumanizing world. I have mind not only his Why Lord? Suffering and Evil in Black Theology (1999), By These Hands: A Documentary History of African American Humanism (2001), African American Humanist Principle (2004), “Black Bodies in Pain and Ecstasy: Terror, Subjectivity, and the Nature of Black Religion” (2003), but in particular his book on Noise and Spirit: The Religious and Spiritual Sensibilities of Rap Music (2003). Pinn uses Hip Hop not only to “keep it real,” but as a hermeneutical and heuristic category to “legitimize” and name an indigenous, complex-subjective space. Knowing the role that complex subjectivity plays helps scholars appreciate Pinn’s, as well as thinker such as Fanon’s and Nietzsche’s, methodological life-stance as phenomenological in nature. That is to say, the lived experience of the oppressed is prioritized and privileged and cannot be divorced from our theories of oppression. In the end, this paper finds that Pinn’s liberal ir/religion is premised on the notion of complex subjectivity.


Roy Whitaker is a Graduate student at Claremont Graduate University.