A Gift from Death: Necropolitics and Handing Over in James Cameron’s “A Time of Terror”

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Jermaine Ross-Allam


This paper presents a necropolitical reading of 1930 Marion, Indiana lynching survivor James Cameron’s A Time of Terror that seeks to shed light on the U.S. American legal and extra-legal tradition in which the state hands over African-American men and boys to mobs and vigilantes in partial fulfillment of sovereign citizenship’s ritual demands. In addition to Achille Mbembe’s 2003 article “Necropolitics,” this paper employs Giorgio Agamben’s “Pilate and Jesus,” in an exploration of the political-theological implications of state refusal to uphold the rule of law to secure African-American life against mob and vigilante violence. In particular, I explore the role feigned reluctance plays in the state’s official response to the dictates of lynch mobs as the state complies with mobs’ demand to enjoy free access to the lynching victim’s body. By demonstrating similarities and continuities with the exercise of Lynch-Law in the colonial period and spectacle lynching in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this paper intends to make political and historical sense of the impunity, civic pride, and religious piety with which George Zimmerman reflected on his 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin in order to highlight where further theological and ethical reflection on social and legal traditions are needed.

Article Details

Black Theology, American Civil Religion, and Public Theology
How to Cite
Ross-Allam, J. (2019). A Gift from Death: Necropolitics and Handing Over in James Cameron’s “A Time of Terror”. Black Theology Papers Project, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.7916/btpp.v4i1.3864