“I’m Bringing Booty Back…”

Picture 3Well, how to post in the wake of Monica Miller’s post yesterday on Kim K’s derriere? That’s the question.  Continue reading

Manufacturing Booty: On How We Stake Our Claims

CoverAs I’m sure we’ve all heard by now, Kim Kardashian’s backside, displayed for the world’s consumption and viewing pleasure (or not) on the front cover of Paper Magazine, “broke the Internet” just a short while ago and has since caused a flurry of debate, shock, praise, and disbelief. Add to that a big-booty praise of “#allday” from her beloved husband, Kanye West which received thousands of Retweets. I’ll leave it for those entering into the debate with interests and intentions of conflict management and moral maintenance to weigh in on what Kim’s big ‘ole butt plastered on the Internet for the world to view and deconstruct means for progress, freedom, justice, feminism, America, motherhood, identity politics, women, sexuality, Kanye, blackness, and much, much more. Amazing how a bare ass on a magazine can speak to and says something about such a *****wide***** variety of topics!
Something more interesting — and fascinating (in my opinion) has caught my attention about the unfolding conversation and ensuing public debate and discourse — that has seemingly little to do with the perceived “object” of study here. I’m more curious about how all of these emerging grand claims to truth (seen in what follows below) sparked by Kim K’s naked badonkadonk are helping it to break the Internet and make possible the Sui Generis booty she (and the world) thinks is so NOT-unique, or, not unique enough to warrant all of the hype. One is not born a big booty, rather, one becomes a big booty, so it seems. We have manufactured the Kardashian booty that we so love to hate and hate to love. Continue reading

You Are What You Read, with Leslie Dorrough Smith (Part 3)

For a new Culture on the Edge series “You Are What You Read” we’re asking each member to answer a series of questions about books — either academic or non-academic — that have been important or influential on us.

3. Name one of your favorite books that’s not a theory book.

tomato-red-daniel-woodrell-book-coverAsking about my favorite non-theory book is kind of like asking about my favorite child. As such, I’ll dodge that question and say that it’s a tie between all of the Harry Potter books and all of the Daniel Woodrell books. The first Woodrell book I read was Tomato Red. Next was The Death of Sweet Mister, followed by Winter’s Bone (remember that Jennifer Lawrence movie? Woodrell wrote the book), and all of the others shortly followed (most recently for me, The Maid’s Version). The Harry Potter books don’t need any sort of explanation, I suspect. But Daniel Woodrell might, and he’s well worth the introduction.
I suppose one of the reasons why I’ve got such strong feelings for Woodrell is not only because he’s an absolutely amazing writer, but because he writes largely about the region where I’m from. I grew up in the Ozarks, and although I was not a child on the verge of starvation living at the whim of my mostly-absent meth-dealing parents, when you live in the places about which Woodrell writes, these realities are never far away if you know where to look. Continue reading

Mayonnaise: What is It?

mayoHave you heard about the court case over whether a product without eggs can be defined as mayonnaise? Continue reading

You Are What You Read, with Craig Martin (Part 1)

For a new Culture on the Edge series “You Are What You Read” we’re asking each member to answer a series of questions about books—either academic or non-academic—that have been important or influential on us.

1. Name a book you read early on that shaped the trajectory of your career.

During my senior year of college I picked up a copy of Stanley Fish’s The Trouble with Principle, and it has made an indelible impact on me. In the book, Fish suggests that abstract principles — specifically abstract liberal principles such as “freedom,” “equality,” “inclusion,” “tolerance,” or “neutrality” — are, in and of themselves, vacuous of any particular content and can, in practice, be turned to support just about any social agenda. To use another analytical vocabulary: abstract liberal principles are floating signifiers that, in context, can be fixed to any particular referent, depending on the skill of the rhetorician at work. Fish suggests that liberal proceduralism — the attempt to find and apply non-partisan political principles — is, ultimately, a theoretically bankrupt affair, as abstract principles only begin to take shape when fixed to partisan projects. If it’s politics all the way down, the presentation of one’s own view as above the fray can be reduced to a form of legitimation. That is not to say that what is theoretically bankrupt is not politically useful: in good Nietzschean fashion Fish assumes that partisan contestation is the nature of the game, and that presenting one’s partisan agenda as neutral is a powerful way of winning social and political contests.

While today I find the details of Fish’s analysis weak at a number of points, I nevertheless remain convinced of his argument on the whole. In a field like the study of religion — many corners of which are saturated with liberal rhetoric — I find Fish’s suspicion of liberal discourse continually useful.

You Are What You Read, with Leslie Dorrough Smith (Part 2)

For a new Culture on the Edge series “You Are What You Read” we’re asking each member to answer a series of questions about books—either academic or non-academic—that have been important or influential on us.

2. Name one of your favorite theory books.

512fyAWdIqL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Bruce Lincoln, Holy Terrors: Thinking About Religion After 9/11 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003)

This is one of my favorite theory books because of its approach toward and definition of religion. The definition, which has four parts, revolves around the first component: the foundation of religion, Lincoln asserts, is discourse. What makes religious discourse different from other types of discourse is that it appeals to a transcendent source (the most familiar version of which is “God”), which subsequently sets that claim beyond effective human critique significantly increasing the political weight of such claims. The other three components (practices, communities, and institutions) come to life only insomuch as they are socio-structural manifestations of that discourse. Continue reading

What Gang Do You Claim?

gang sign mayorIn December of 2013, Russell McCutcheon penned a blog piece about the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service who was caught signing what many regarded as gibberish. McCutcheon’s post made two principle points: First, all signs are arbitrary and rely on agreed upon codes, policing and assumptions between those doing the communicating for any communication or “meaning” to be enacted. Second, the backlash faced by the interpreter demonstrates that “just because something is made up… does not mean that it doesn’t have consequences, doesn’t have effect.”

If you haven’t heard, a few days ago Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges claimed her allegiance to a local area gang. Or so an intensely politically problematic and pedagogically potent news report from KSTP 5 Eyewitness News (out of Saint Paul, MN) declared. Continue reading

People Are Way Too Obsessed With Their Books

reading1

The book, among humanity’s most wide-reaching and long lasting technological innovations, has adversely impacted the human species in ways its creators could have never imagined. Continue reading

#falsechoice

memoriexOn Twitter earlier today it occurred to me that the old commercial advertizing Memorex brand cassette tapes (did I just date myself?) is an apt way to get at the problem of people who try to distinguish between, on the one hand, representation — an activity acknowledged to be lodged within the problems of discourse — and actual or authentic lived experience, on the other. Continue reading

The Bank Dick

the-bank-dickI was visiting Lehigh University not long ago and bought my wife a little something while I was there. It wasn’t elaborate, just a little necklace to surprise her when I got back. But that evening, back at my hotel, just before leaving for my final dinner, I got a phone call from home: my wife was wanting to confirm whether I’d made a purchase earlier that day, since the service our credit union uses had contacted her about an unusual purchase.

She knew the amount because they knew the amount and they knew the amount because I’d never before spend X number of dollars in Bethlehem PA. That’s why the automated fraud protection levers were pulled and my card was yanked.

So much for the surprise. Continue reading