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Folk Religion and the Medical Engineering of Rural Black Laborers

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AbstractIn the study of American religion, scholars use the category folk to illuminate the religious worlds of populations on the margins of society. The category has been deployed to valorize the unique cultures of populations while extending the meaning and function of religion beyond conventional markers. Judith Weisenfeld’s religio-racial concept underscores how different state bureaucracies played an important role in the daily religious worlds of Black laypeople. This article applies Weisenfeld’s contribution to American religion by demonstrating that the folk category also sheds light on the agency of state actors and networks. Using the 1931 Macon County, Alabama, venereal disease program, I will argue that the folk category was part of the state’s biomedical campaign to regulate the daily religious cultures of the Black poor.

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News source: Journal of the American Academy of Religion Current Issue

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