Brad speaks with Stanford scholar of religion Dr. Kathryn Gin Lum about her new book Heathen. They discuss how White American Christians have used the label “heathen” in order to name those they deem not only different, but in need of saving. In this context, “saving” often meant the occupation of native lands, the overtaking of entire cultures, and the exclusion of those “unassimilable” to the American way of life. Race continues to operate as a heathen inheritance in the United States, animating Americans’ sense of being a world apart from an undifferentiated mass of needy, suffering peoples. Dr. Gin Lum reveals a key source of American exceptionalism and a prism through which Americans have defined themselves as a progressive and humanitarian nation even as supposed heathens have drawn on the same to counter this national myth. This is not a past phenomenon – it continues today in debates about reproductive rights and the rise of anti-Asian hate during the COVID pandemic.
Heathen by Kathryn Gin Lum: https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674976771
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