The saints of the African American sanctified community say that the soul is the domain not of body or mind, but of spirit. And when the Spirit touches spirit, the soul rejoices in an epiphany of truth and knowledge.
Speaking of soul, Spirit, and experience draws discourse into a realm rarely explored by ethnographic inquiry. Ethnography has traditionally avoided encounter with the subjective realm of experience -- not just supernatural experience, but experience in general. In Fire in My Bones, Glenn Hinson focuses on a single gospel program and offers a major contribution to our understanding not just of gospel, but of the nature of religious experience.
A key feature of African American performance is the layering of performative voices and the constant shifting of performative focus. To capture this layering, Hinson demonstrates how all the parts of the gospel program work together to shape a single whole, joining speech and song; performer and audience; testimony, prayer, preaching, and singing into a seamless and multifaceted service of worship: the service becomes his model, from the opening song to the final benediction. Personal stories ground the discussion at every turn, while experiential testimony fuels the unfolding arguments.
Fire in My Bones is an extraordinary and original exploration of experience and belief in a community of African American Christians, but it is also an exploration of African American aesthetics, the study of belief, and the ethnographic enterprise.