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Mary Grace Albanese

Society Fellow

Overview

Mary Grace Albanese’s work centers on the transnational Americas in the long 19th-century. Her book project, Prophetic Power: Haiti, the United States and Black Women's Spiritual Labor reveals how African American women, including Marie Laveau, Sojourner Truth, Maria Stewart, and Pauline Hopkins drew on Afro-Caribbean spiritual energies to reclaim their right to their own bodies, minds, and kinship structures. Articles from this project, and others, appear or are forthcoming in American Literature, ESQ, and J19. She has also written reviews and short essays for Critical Inquiry, American Literary History, SX Salon, Callaloo, and Common-Place, among other venues. Mary Grace is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Binghamton University (SUNY). She received her PhD in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 2017 and was a visiting doctoral student at Sciences Po, Paris from 2015-2016.

Research Focus

Prophetic Power: Haiti, the United States, and Black Women's Spiritual Labor

This project demonstrates how African American women, including Marie Laveau, Sojourner Truth, Maria Stewart, and Pauline Hopkins harnessed diasporic spiritual energies, particularly by way of the Haitian Revolution, in order build revolutionary political programs. While traditional narratives of modernity have emphasized advancements in communication technologies, fossil fuel extraction, the rise of urban centers and the distribution of electrical power, I propose that women of African descent combated the violent regimes of an increasingly industrialized, urbanized, and connected globe through diasporic spiritual beliefs and practices. In doing so, they countered a version of modernity sustained by the labor of black bodies (and especially the reproductive labor of black women’s bodies) with alternative forms of power and energy.

Central to this alternative modernity was the Haitian Revolution, which offered a model for diasporic emancipation, expanded gender expression, and anti-imperialist political labor for women throughout the Americas. Prophetic Power expands our narratives of modernity to include not only heroes like Toussaint Louverture but female and non-binary gardeners, nurses, cooks, priestesses, witches, and queens. Tenderly cultivating poison and medicine, reclaiming their bodily economies through fasting, rootwork, and appeals to God, channeling the divine through acts of possession and prophecy, these women made claims to self-sovereignty, redefined kinship, and protected their bodies from the violence of white ideologies. When we unsuture the concept of energy from narratives of technological progress, capital accrual and global expansion, new stories become legible, stories which center black women at the heart of a pulsating, revolutionary world.

Departments/Programs

  • Society for the Humanities