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The Feeling of Forgetting

Christianity, Race, and Violence in America

A provocative examination of how religious practices of forgetting drive white Christian nationalism.
The dual traumas of colonialism and slavery are still felt by Native Americans and African Americans as victims of ongoing violence toward people of color today. In The Feeling of Forgetting, John Corrigan calls attention to the trauma experienced by white Americans as perpetrators of this violence. By tracing memory’s role in American Christianity, Corrigan shows how contemporary white Christian nationalism is motivated by a widespread effort to forget the role race plays in American society. White trauma, Corrigan argues, courses through American culture like an underground river that sometimes bursts forth into brutality, terrorism, and insurrection. Tracing the river to its source is a necessary first step toward healing.

248 pages | 1 line drawing | 6 x 9

History: American History

Political Science: Race and Politics

Religion: American Religions, Christianity, Religion and Society


"With unabashed frankness and unrelenting truth-telling, Corrigan offers much-needed clarity to the ongoing attempts to account for enduring racism and religious hatred that too often portray the coexistence of Christianity and racism as an unfortunate contradiction or oversimplify the relationship between ideology and violence. A game-changing study."

Sylvester Johnson, Virginia Tech

“Corrigan draws on a lifetime of research and writing about religion, race, and violence to offer insights where others have shrugged with befuddlement. White racial anxiety, he argues, is a feeling produced by the unsuccessful labor of forgetting the violence inherent to chattel slavery and Native dispossession. The result is a charged meditation on religious whiteness in the United States.”

Jennifer Graber, University of Texas at Austin

“Corrigan offers a nuanced look at America’s sorry history of racism, violence, and trauma from the colonial era to January 6 and beyond, taking on American Christianity’s proclivity for forgetting our society’s traumatic past. This is a wise and important book with the potential to reshape our national discourse."

Randall Balmer, Dartmouth College

“Through a sweeping critical review of interdisciplinary work on emotions, trauma, memory, and history, Corrigan carefully assembles a way to understand the intergenerational transmission of trauma among both victims and perpetrators of collective violence. A remarkable and courageous book.”

William M. Reddy, Duke University

Table of Contents

Introduction: Bad Memories
Chapter 1: Colonial Legacies
Chapter 2: Trauma
Chapter 3: Emotion
Chapter 4: Forgetting and Remembering
Chapter 5: Anxiety, Erasure, and Affect
Chapter 6: Race, Religion, and Nation
Conclusion: The Feeling of Forgetting

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