Presidential Election Time: Disenfranchising the Margins in a Democratic Moment
“The ravages of Hurricane Sandy brought this to the fore. Could a national election be put on hold to ensure the participation of millions of civilians impacted? The politically agile did jump on the occasion to cash-in on this. Even Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who tends to be outspoken, should have given more thought to his responses to the storm’s impact on the election before a crass rejoinder that makes his sentiments clear—Why would I care about an election now? It seems to be part of the American spirit to assume that showing a strong face is what the nation needs at all times, even during times of calamity. The voting gap—the poor, the working poor, citizens of color, and the elderly—often face difficulties in making it to the polls. They are not represented by the candidates; they appear not in national debates, and yet, they are a significant part of the fabric of our society. If we were to embrace the view that our moral character as a nation shows itself in how we make it possible for the most vulnerable to fully participate in our national life, we would come face to face with the startling realization that we have missed a step.”
Dr. Elias Ortega-Aponte is an Afro-Latino scholar whose areas of expertise are cultural sociology, religious ethics, social movements, and bioethics. He received his Ph.D. in Religious Social Ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary and now serves as Assistant Professor of Afro-Latinos/as Religions and Cultural Studies at Drew University Theological School in Madison, NJ. Dr. Ortega-Aponte approaches teaching from a transdisciplinary perspective that is committed to social justice and to the celebration of the creativity, genius, and fighting spirit of communities of color. His primary research interest is the study of how the intersections of race, religion, and experiences of inequalities lead communities of color to find ways to engage the challenges of urban poverty, incarceration, access to education, and adequate health care.
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Jason Craige Harris is a third-year master's candidate in Black Religion in the African Diaspora and a Marquand merit scholar at Yale Divinity School, where he was recently awarded the Mary Cady Tew Prize for exceptional ability in history and ethics. He earned a bachelor’s in religion and African-American studies from Wesleyan University and received the Giffin Prize for excellence in the Study of Religion, Spurrier Award for ethics, and an official citation for academic excellence issued by the 2009 Connecticut General Assembly. As a fellow at Wesleyan’s Center for the Humanities and a recipient of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship, Harris wrote a senior honors thesis analyzing theological anthropologies along political and racial fault lines in U.S. Evangelical history. His research and writing are principally concerned with black life, Christianity, (post)colonialism, violence, feminisms, critical social theory, and ultimately planetary flourishing. Concerns arising from the academic study of Africana religion, philosophy, and ethics particularly inform his inquiries. Through an interdisciplinary framework, he probes the systems of values that undergird dominant epistemological, rhetorical, cultural, and religious forms to determine to what extent, if at all, they conduce to robust conceptions of justice. With an eye toward contemporary social problems, he considers the religious strategies and visions that historically marginalized peoples have created to respond to conditions of living and being delimited by restrictive understandings of race, gender, religion, and nation. He is a general editor at the Journal of Postcolonial Networks, where, among other things, he helps to facilitate conversations on race and postcolonial/liberation theologies. As a Christian minister and budding public intellectual, Harris seeks and invites others into more holistic and attuned, less violent and constrained, ways of narrating the self and the divine.
Areas of Interest and Research:
African American Religious Studies
African American Moral, Social, and Political Thought
African American Intellectual History
Liberation and Postcolonial (Christian) Thought
Philosophies of Liberation
Contemporary Religious Thought
Race, Gender, and American Christianities
Evangelicalisms and Pentecostalisms
Histories of Race Discourse in the Americas
(Christian) Social Ethics
Critical Social Theory/Social Philosophy
Theories of Race, Gender, and Power
Method and Theory in the Study of Religion
He is deeply committed to a praxis in which dualities of mind/heart, mind/body, and emotions/thought are consistently challenged and replaced with integrated models of selfhood that cherish self-multiplicity - the point at which the postcolonial becomes self-consciously embodied. He also enjoy taking walks in the coolness of the day, singing, laughing, and writing poetically and theoretically on his lived experience, whatever helps to bring more beauty and justice into the world.