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Participant name: Judith Weisenfeld
Date range: 1998-2019

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Award Number Grant ProgramAward RecipientProject TitleAward PeriodApproved Award Total
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FA-55227-10Research Programs: Fellowships for University TeachersJudith WeisenfeldBlack Prophets, Gods, and Utopian Visions: Religion and Racial Identity in the Great Migration7/1/2010 - 6/30/2011$50,400.00Judith Weisenfeld   Princeton UniversityPrincetonNJ08540-5228USA2009Religion, GeneralFellowships for University TeachersResearch Programs504000504000

In this project I examine a number of early twentieth century black religious movements in the United States that proposed new ways of understanding black racial identity and destiny. In addition to charting the groups' varied strategies for rethinking racial meaning through a religious lens, I consider the movements' cultural impact and explore how their alternative claims about religion and racial destiny challenged mainstream black religious communities and resonated in black popular culture. At its core, this is a project about the public cultures of race in early 20th century black America and I examine the critical functions of religion in reconstructing black racial identity in both corporate and deeply private and individual ways. One of the work's major contributions lies in the attention I devote to tracing discussion within and across African American religious communities about understandings of race.

FEL-257073-18Research Programs: FellowshipsJudith WeisenfeldPsychiatry, Race, and African American Religions in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries7/1/2018 - 6/30/2019$50,400.00Judith Weisenfeld   Princeton UniversityPrincetonNJ08540-5228USA2017History of ReligionFellowshipsResearch Programs504000504000

Research and writing of a book-length study of interpretations of African American religiosity by psychiatrists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This project examines the intersections of psychiatry and racialized understandings of religion in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century America and explores the impact on African Americans of the racialized religious framing of "the normal mind." I trace the contours of white psychiatrists' understandings of the role of religion in shaping African Americans' mental states, explore how racialized religious conceptions of the sane and insane influenced court decisions about competency and the treatment of African Americans in mental hospitals. I also consider the construction by police, media, and courts of mental illnesses attributed to the practice of "voodoo" or participation in religious groups outsiders labeled "cults." I argue that racialized ideas about religion were constitutive components of psychiatric constructions of the normal and insane in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.