James Perkinson

Between the Celtic Bridget, Jewish Jacob, Detroit Dwarf and Great Lakes Water:
A White Settler Colonial Struggle to Re-member “Wells” and Well

This talk will ramble through a few of the actual wells in the past of my Indo-European people and my Christian heritage, outlining my own fraught attempt to learn about the inner city Detroit “bend of water” (“Wawiaantanong”) where I dwell, the history of Native and Black losses and continuing beauty its carries, the ancient tradition of linking spirituality to water flow and relationality, and the fierce politics of the present in pushing back on the commodification of H2O and privatization of aquifer and river that we witness in this apocalyptic hour. Big agenda for a little person! Healing, recovery of connection, embrace of entanglement, confession of need and interdependence will all be part of the (brief) excursion.

Among the major bits of learning hinted will be the role of myth as the multileveled “house” of image and rhythm through which spirit appears, plays, groans, shapeshifts and tricks. And the struggle to allow the big theater of healing to summon me out of any attempt to convene healing in my own body or subjectivity, recognizing rather that the task for one such as me is to embrace wholeness as “whole-low-ness.” Part of the profoundly destructive posture of the modern Western self on the world stage is its drive to privatize healing in terms of individualism and disconnection rather than a deeply hallowed “hollowness” and indebtedness at the core of one’s being that remains open towards human and non-human others as the real source of life towards which one owes gift-offerings of beauty. In one sense “the well” is the hollow through which this world emerges from the Other World—both within oneself and in whatever local eco-community-and-wounded-history a given person is imbedded—orchestrated by Chance, presided over by Metabolism and Compost as “deities,” ever beholden to that bioregion’s actual flows of Water, and demanding a Life constantly giving away Gratitude and Food and Creativity to the
particular beings with which one is involved face-to-face and mouth-to-mouth in daily life,
responding as continuing question mark and challenge addressed to every such effort, the witness of the original dwellers in that place.

Dr. James Perkinson:  is a long-time activist and educator from inner city Detroit, where he has a history of involvement in various community development initiatives and low-income housing projects. He holds a PhD in theology from the University of Chicago, with a secondary focus on history of religions, is the author of White Theology: Outing Supremacy in Modernity and Shamanism, Racism, and Hip-Hop Culture: Essays on White Supremacy and Black Subversion, and has written extensively in both academic and popular journals on questions of race, class and colonialism in connection with religion and urban culture. He is in demand as a speaker on a wide variety of topics related to his interests and a recognized artist on the spoken-word poetry scene in the inner city.

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