Flaming?: The Peculiar Theopolitics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance

ISBN : 9780190065423

Alisha Jones
304 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jun 2020
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Male-centered theology, a dearth of men in the pews, and an overrepresentation of queer males in music ministry: these elements coexist within the spaces of historically black Protestant churches, creating an atmosphere where simultaneous heteropatriarchy and "real" masculinity anxieties, archetypes of the "alpha-male preacher", the "effeminate choir director" and homo-antagonism, are all in play. The "flamboyant" male vocalists formed in the black Pentecostal music ministry tradition, through their vocal styles, gestures, and attire in church services, display a spectrum of gender performances - from "hyper-masculine" to feminine masculine - to their fellow worshippers, subtly protesting and critiquing the otherwise heteronormative theology in which the service is entrenched. And while the performativity of these men is characterized by cynics as "flaming," a similar musicalized "fire" - that of the Holy Spirit - moves through the bodies of Pentecostal worshippers, endowing them religio-culturally, physically, and spiritually like "fire shut up in their bones".
Using the lenses of ethnomusicology, musicology, anthropology, men's studies, queer studies, and theology, Flaming?: The Peculiar Theo-Politics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance observes how male vocalists traverse their tightly-knit social networks and negotiate their identities through and beyond the worship experience. Author Alisha Jones ultimately addresses the ways in which gospel music and performance can afford African American men not only greater visibility, but also an affirmation of their fitness to minister through speech and song.


Setting the Atmosphere: A Sermonic Selection
1. I Am Delivert!: The Pentecostal Altar Call and Vocalizing Black Men's Testimonies of Deliverance from Homosexuality
2. Men Don't Sing Soprano: Black Countertenors and Gendered Sound in the Sermonic Selection
3. Pole Dancing For Jesus: Pentecostal Religious Pluralism and The Bodily Performance of Sexual Ambiguity in Liturgical Dance
4. Peculiar 'Til I D.I.E.: War Cries, Undignified Praise, and Homomusicoenchantment in Gospel Go-Go Music
5. WIRED: (De)Coding Tonex's Unapologetic Queer Body Theology
6. Ritualizing the Unspoken: Memory, Separation, and The Rhetorical Art of Silence
7. Church Realness: The Performance of Discretionary Devices and Hetero-presentation in the House of God
Preaching to the Choir and Being Played: An Altar Call

About the author: 

Alisha Lola Jones, PhD is an assistant professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University (Bloomington). Dr. Jones is a council member of the Society for Ethnomusicology's (SEM), American Musicological Society (AMS) and co-chair of the Music and Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Dr. Jones' research interests include musical masculinities, global pop music, future studies, ecomusicology, music and theology, the music industry, musics of the African diaspora and emerging research on music and future foodways (gastromusicology) in conjunction with The Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley, CA.

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