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The Spirit and the Subprime: Race, Risk, and Our Common Dispossession

Amaryah Jones-Armstrong


This essay argues that Sarah Coakley’s understanding of contemplation and the Spirit’s dispossessive work can provide timely interruption of contemporary economic crises when read beside Willie Jennings’s indictment of Christianity’s imagination as the production of race. Read together, contemplation and dispossession provide useful frames for analyzing and reimagining the common good. Here, I argue that theologians and church communities can understand Coakley’s and Jennings’s work as confrontations with racial capitalism. In particular, I take Coakley’s attention to the need for dispossession by the Spirit to correspond with black theologians’ assertions that we must turn to the dispossessed in the United States—the black and brown poor—to find where God is at work. The racialized subprime debtors who are perpetually dispossessed, failing, and criminal are the people Christian theology must align with in order to confront its relation to white supremacy. By contemplating alternative conceptions of property and ownership foregrounded by the concept of dispossession, we can begin to imagine, perceive, and practice an otherwise common good.

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