Dr. McKinnis' forthcoming manuscript, The Black Coptic Church: Race and Imagination in a New Religion, joins NYU Press in the illustrious Religion, Race, and Ethnicity series. The manuscript will be available in 2023.
In this ground-breaking study of the Black Coptic Church—an Ethiopianist community founded by Prophet Louis Cicero Patterson during the latter Great Migration—The Black Coptic Church explores the royal imagination of believers as they are converted into a “spiritual kingdom.” Drawing on more than ten years of ethnographic research, The Black Coptic Church engages lived religion through the spiritual lives of Black Coptic followers as they assert a way of being Black that they describe as “divine.” This embrace of a royal blackness—what McKinnis notes as an act of “fugitive spirituality"—illuminates how the Black Coptic tradition in Chicago uniquely employs religio-performative imagination, with a rigorous agenda to conjure an otherwise Blackness.
The Black Coptic Church refocuses our attention on the necessary relationship between race and religion. Combining rich archival materials with ethnographic voice, McKinnis positions the Black Coptic Church as a theologically hybrid context— while primarily Christian, still borrowing from other groups such as Black Jews, fused with a reclamation of Egyptian and Ethiopian religious and cultural sources. Indeed, this inter-theological presence assists the Black Coptic followers in imagining and self-fashioning Black identity in a way that challenges white supremacist interpretations of Black people, Black life, and Black culture.
The Black Coptic Church offers us the first full-length study of a radical religious tradition, which illuminates another context in Chicago where race and religion meet as partners in rigorous resistance.