Volume 39, Issue 2, Fall/Winter 2019
Karen V. Guth
Sacred Emblems of Faith
Womanist Contributions to the Confederate Monuments Debate
This paper explores the power of womanist ethics to illuminate the Confederate monuments debate. First, I draw on Emilie Townes’s analysis of the “cultural production of evil” to construe Confederate monuments as products of the “fantastic hegemonic imagination” that render visible for whites the invisibility of “whiteness.” Second, I argue that Angela Sims’s work on lynching provides a vivid example of how “countermemory” functions as an antidote to the fantastic hegemonic imagination. Finally, I argue that Delores Williams’s re-evaluation of the cross as a sacred symbol enables a reading of Confederate monuments as realist symbols of violence that require displacement from the center to the periphery of national sacred space. I conclude that although the debate on Confederate monuments is important, womanist analysis warns against an overly-narrow focus on this issue, lest we neglect the already obscured gendered, classist, homophobic, and xenophobic dimensions of structural injustice that the monuments represent.