Alexander K. Sterling

Alexander's new Profile PicB.A. in English, University of California, Riverside, 2012

M.A. in English, University of California, Riverside, 2014


Erica Edwards, Vorris Nunley, Fred Moten, Michelle Raheja, Ashon Crawley

Research Areas:

African American Literature, Rhetoric, Theology, Black Protest, and the Politics of Recognition

Research Interests:

My research examines the way that contemporary canonical Black Christianity has on the one hand served as a vehicle for White supremacy, while it has on the other hand been used as a vehicle for radical Black sociality. Canonical Black Christianity includes popular public misperceptions of a monolithic Black church that, although made up of various denominations, factions, and theological differences, functions as a trope that creates and recreates meaning as a rhetorical construction in and through Black lives. My research will focus on how divergent, noncanonical understandings of Black religiosity are manifested in contemporary African American literature, particularly through notions of “calling” and “uncalling.” Although it is well documented in historical and sociological scholarship that Black Christianity has been used as a tool both for oppression and liberation, my literary research focuses on alternative expressions of black religiosity in African American fiction since the early twentieth century, focusing on the proliferation of minor black religiosities, or heterodoxies, as well as on the shades of religious expression that do not conform to institutionalized or canonical Black religion. I will utilize texts that are shaped by this tension―such as James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain, Richard Wright’s Native Son, and Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters―to draw out a form of being in the world that is not concerned with obtaining approval, social/political recognition, or affirmation within a White supremacist framework. I will pay particular attention to notions of calling, ordination, anointing, and uncalling that illustrate the disruptions of this master narrative of the Black church in order to consider the relationship between Black religiosity, Black social movements, and the politics of recognition. In other words, my work will analyze Black religiosity as an enactment of radical Black collectivity in counterdistinction to a politics of recognition.


UCR Undergraduate Research Journal Volume VI (2012)
Rhetoric of Retention: Malcolm X’s “A Message to the Grassroots”