Authority & Objectivism in The Things We Study

(Photo: The North American Association for the Study of Religion)

Some of us here at Culture on the Edge are prepping for The North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR) annual meeting that kicks off tomorrow. Part of the meeting is dedicated to “The Things We Study When We Study Religion.” Three sets of panels address what counts as data and how that data is handled — specifically tackling the objects, subjects, and the role scholars in our scholarship (find more info on the NAASR site). At the same time, here on the blog we’ve been reading Rogers Brubaker’s trans: Gender and Race in an Age of Unsettled Identities. In light of the topics being addressed at NAASR, there’s a quote from Brubaker that I find to be relevant and worth mulling over:

“Yet recourse to objectivist language is not simply strategic; it also reflects the deep appeal of essentialist understandings of identity outside the academy. Objectivism is further nourished by the cultural authority of biomedical science.”

While Brubaker goes on to discuss biological research in the study of transgender identity, the above quote is rather apt and quite useful in the broader scope of identity studies as well. Though, there may also be a need to address the essentialist notions of identity that are taken for granted within the academy itself and how authority itself is constituted. In recognizing how authority is constructed it can help remind us to be cognizant of the power that resides in making identity claims to begin with, essentialist claims that nourish objectivism, often taking on a life of their own adding to a broader objectivist language, both inside and outside the academy.

 

The Edge is off to Boston!

This Thursday, some members of Culture on the Edge will be heading to Boston, MA for the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature. If you’re there, be sure to look us up in the program book or on the mobile app and find us at a panel.

While you’re there, be sure to stop by Equinox‘s table at the book display to find the group books such as Fabricating Origins, Fabricating Difference, and Fabricating Identities to see what all the Edge has been up to.

And rumor has it there might still be a few On the Edge buttons floating around, so keep an eye out coz they go quick!

Creating Neutrality

Crucifix displayed in Quebec National Assembly

By Ian Alexander Cuthbertson

On Wednesday October 18, Québec passed a controversial new law that bans residents from wearing face coverings while providing or receiving government services — including public transportation. Neutrality has become one of the key talking points since the law was enacted. While the law itself is framed as “an act to foster adherence to State religious neutrality,” Québec Premier Philippe Couillard and Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée have both defended the law against accusations of religious discrimination by emphasising that the law bans all face coverings, and not only religious ones. These assertions of neutrality are, however, more complicated than they at first appear.

While many Québec residents are outraged at the anti-Muslim implications of the new law, I want to consider how this law neutralizes some apparently religious expressions while prohibiting others along with the rhetorical strategies the government has employed to solidify its apparently neutral stance. Continue reading “Creating Neutrality”

The Edge Reading Group Meets this Week

This week the members of Culture on the Edge will meet to discuss the first of two books that we’re looking at this semester: Rogers Brubaker‘s recent book, trans.

We’re using Zoom, for video conferencing, and so you may see a few posts in the future revolving around what we come up with. And if you’ve read it, let us know what you think — Chpt 2, our peer review blog, is always looking for new voices.

“It becomes an identity. A part of you.”

Factory worker's worn hands

The New York Times published an interesting article yesterday — focusing on US factory worker, Shannon Mulcahy,  someone who is caught up in the effects of globalization (aka US jobs moving to Mexico).

I’ll leave it to you to read it, but among the many things that caught my eye was that line, quoted above, in my title. Continue reading ““It becomes an identity. A part of you.””

Articulating Dinosaurs & Religions (The Story of Us)

Photo of Animated Triceratops at Universal’s Island of Adventures, Orlando, FL

What do the dinosaurs of the past have to do with us today?

The first time I remember thinking about what really makes a dinosaur, was watching Steven Spielberg’s academy award-winning picture Jurassic Park (1993), where dinosaurs are brought back to life through the magic of DNA cloning. In the film, the small island of Isla Nublar is the home to a theme park built from the imagination of John Hammond, a billionaire philanthropist who spares no expense.

Adapted from Michael Crichton’s novel, Jurassic Park is a wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs that escape their enclosures and start hunting the humans. In one of the film’s most iconic scenes we find siblings Lex and Tim trapped in a kitchen by two raptors. As can be seen in the picture below the raptors tower over the children seeking out the siblings in a terrifying game of hide and seek.

Photo Copyright Universal Studios, Film Stills: Jurassic Park (1993)

But according to Jurassic World’s palaeontology consultant, Jack Horner, the horse-sized beasts with fangs and claws that dawn the screen as raptors, have not been portrayed accurately as discussed Continue reading “Articulating Dinosaurs & Religions (The Story of Us)”

Of Trigger Warnings and Petty Things

I was recently listening to an episode of The Sunday Edition (a popular weekly radio show on the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster), on the topic of free speech on university campuses, and was intrigued by the following exchange between host Michael Enright and his guest James Turk, who is director of The Centre of Free Expression at Ryerson University in Toronto (give a listen to their conversation here). Continue reading “Of Trigger Warnings and Petty Things”

When You Don’t Look the Part

I brought my car to the dealership recently to have some work done. While the service department — interesting they’re called “service” and not “mechanics,” signaling (or suggesting?) perhaps a higher level of expertise — was working on my car, I started checking out some of the cars in the showroom. As I started eyeing the car I hope to get in a few years, I expected to be interrupted by a salesperson who would come running over to try and sell me on the car. Continue reading “When You Don’t Look the Part”

Taking the Popular Wisdom Seriously is a Little Disturbing, No?

Dylann Roof, suspect convicted of Charleston Shooting

As a quick following-up to this morning’s earlier post on how quickly we tend to conclude, but only in some cases, that certain gunmen in mass shootings are “lone wolves” (whose actions couldn’t be anticipated), it occurred to me that there’s a largely unseen ramification to attributing individual, psychological motives to the actions of white guys as opposed to the ease with which many of us seem to attribute planned, political motives to pretty much everyone else who does something heinous. Continue reading “Taking the Popular Wisdom Seriously is a Little Disturbing, No?”

How Many Lone Wolves Does it Take to Make a Pack?

Photo of suspect in Las Vegas mass shooting

Yes, that’s the photo of 64 year old Stephen Paddock, the now dead suspect in last night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

At present, 50 people are reported killed, at an outdoor concert, with over 100 injured. (Learn more at the New York Times.) Continue reading “How Many Lone Wolves Does it Take to Make a Pack?”