The Body Politic(s) of the Jezebel Spirit

In: Religion and Gender
S. Jonathon O’Donnell
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‘Third wave’ neo-charismatic evangelical discourses of spiritual warfare envision the world as caught within a struggle between good and evil, in which demonic forces play an active role in shaping the lives of individuals, institutions, and nations. In contemporary American spiritual warfare discourse one demonic spirit has gained particular notoriety: the Jezebel spirit. Through a close reading of American spiritual warfare manuals, this article explores constructions of the Jezebel spirit and her place in third wave demonology. Constructed as a spiritual force reigning over an errant United States, the figure of Jezebel facilitates a discursive conflation of personal and social bodies in which the ‘present absences’ of ‘deviant’ (gendered, sexualised, racialised) bodies within the nation become figured as threatening to both national and spiritual survival. Drawing on poststructuralist, postcolonial, and queer theory, the article unpacks how Jezebel is constructed as a figure of feminised absence and multiplicity, whose ‘illegitimate’ possession of ‘deviant’ places and persons renders them as territories of absence that must be restored to normative presence through the reinscription of God’s will.

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