Our Peculiar Institution

12 Years a Slave, American Protestantism, and the Erotics of Racism


  • Donovan Schaefer Haverford College




Slavery, Protestantism, race, 12 Years a Slave, Sharon Patricia Holland, affect theory, shame, dignity


Read through the lens of Sharon Patricia Holland's work on the "erotic life of racism," Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave offers ways of thinking the intertwining of religion and race in the United States from the antebellum era up to today.

Author Biography

  • Donovan Schaefer, Haverford College

    Donovan O. Schaefer is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at Haverford College.


Capeheart, Jonathan. “Ugly Rebel Yell in Front of the White House.” Washington Post. Online edition. Oct. 14, 2013. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2013/10/14/ugly-rebel-yell-in-front-of-the-white-house/ Accessed January 2, 2014

Eckholm, Erik. “Southern Baptists Set for a Notable First.” The New York Times. June 17, 2012.

Feddes, Morgan. “Richard Land’s Comments on Trayvon Martin Investigated by SBC.” Christianity Today. Online edition. April 4, 2012. http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2012/april/richard-lands-comments-on-trayvon-martin-investigated-by.html Accessed January 2, 2014.

Genovese, Eugene. Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made. New York: Vintage, 1976.

Holland, Sharon Patricia. The Erotic Life of Racism. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2012.

Hurston, Zora Neale. “Spirituals and Neo-Spirituals.” In: Voices from the Harlem Renaissance. Nathan Irvin Huggins, ed. 2nd edition. Oxford, New York, etc.: Oxford University Press, 1995: 344-347.

Killough, Ashley, Shannon Travis, and Brian Rokus. “Rallier Tells Obama to ‘Put the Qur’an Down.’” CNN Online: Political Ticker. Oct. 13, 2013. http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/13/at-tea-party-like-rally-obama-told-to-put-the-quran-down/ Accessed January 2, 2014.

McQueen, Steve. 12 Years a Slave. USA: Regency Enterprises and River Road Entertainment, 2013.

Niebuhr, Gustav. “Baptist Group Votes to Repent Stand on Slaves.” The New York Times. June 21, 1995.

Schaefer, Donovan O. “Profile Me: The Confederate Flag, Shame, and White Male Terror.” Religion Bulletin: The Blogging Portal of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion. August 7, 2012. http://www.equinoxpub.com/blog/2012/08/profile-me-the-confederate-flag-shame-and-white-male-terror/ Accessed January 2, 2014.






How to Cite

Schaefer, D. (2014). Our Peculiar Institution: 12 Years a Slave, American Protestantism, and the Erotics of Racism. Bulletin for the Study of Religion, 43(1), 34-36. https://doi.org/10.1558/bsor.v43i1.34