“New Books on the Edge” is an ongoing blog series, which engages forthcoming manuscripts by Edge collective members.
Changing the Subject: Writing Women Across the African Diaspora
From diaspora to class, gender, subjectivity, migration, labor and much more – take us behind the scenes of Changing the Subject — how it came to be, what sorts of questions are raised in this project, and what data is being engaged?
My disciplinary training is in literary theory, and I have long been puzzled by a tendencyI see working in that domain of scholarship. Namely, while so much of the field has been influenced by what many—myself included—see as important poststructuralist intellectual moves, I nonetheless keep coming across analyses by prominent scholars that focus on “authenticity” in one manner or other. This seems an especially noticeable phenomenon within scholarship on texts deemed marginalized—and, as my data set when I began the work that would ultimately become this book was comprised of narratives by women of various African diasporas, I decided to delve into how and why the emphasis on something called authenticity appears in the criticism surrounding these texts. Continue reading →
“Your Turn” is a new, ongoing feature at Culture on the Edge, in which we just plant the seed by picking a ripe e.g. and then soliciting and responding to your analysis.
Maybe the beach really is better?
Recently, as I sat down on a beach near Nice, France, I took notice of two women in front of me. One was wearing the tiniest of French bikinis, the other, a full burka. Other than the sand — Nice’s beaches are quite pebbly — the scene looked a lot like the photo above and sent my mind spinning, a growing clarity or distillation of oh so many discussions and debates I’ve had here in the academy about women’s rights, liberation and the like began to emerge. The juxtaposing bodies, each “oppressed” or “subjugated” in their own ways via the burka or bikini (of course, depending on the social interests at stake), collided in front of me in the south of France, a country that has recently banned face-covering burkas from public altogether and the more basic headscarf from schools and other civic institutions and establishments back in 2004. Continue reading →
Anytime “data” can answer this question, the stakes increase. “Yes” or “No,” the question is posed rhetorically, for in receiving an answer, the trouble of the “human sciences”—that is, the human in human sciences—sounds off in a chorus composed of intentionality, strategies of identification, and politically-charged and charred epistemological appeals and ethical slights-of-hand. In other words, when we take this question (and its implications) seriously, shit stands to “get real.”
About a year ago, historian, religious studies scholar and public intellectual Anthea Butler wrote a powerful essay for Religion Dispatches titled “The Zimmerman Acquittal: America’s Racist God.” If you have the time, it’s worth another read. She ended up the target of a series of online attacks from people angry at the post. Dr. Butler cataloged the hate mail here. Continue reading →
You’ve contributed much to the discourse on theory and method in the academic study of religion over the years – can you take us behind the scenes with “why” this book now, and to what sorts of questions and/or critiques in the field you’re responding to in your push to show the manner in which the “academic” study of religion rightfully constitutes primary research on “real” religions?
For whatever reason, over the years some of my work has prompted replies from other scholars—sometimes substantive, sometimes dismissive or, on occasion, even angry. So I’ve had the luxury of writing responses or rejoinders on a number of occasions, but I’ve never done anything with these pieces—not that I ought to, but they tend to represent a part of the field that, I think, often goes unnoticed. For a variety of reasons I’ve turned into an essayist and I tend to gather up pieces periodically and then publish them as a collection—a genre I certainly didn’t invent and one that is not so distinct from a monograph as some might wish to think—and so the idea of collecting these responses, and then writing new introductions to each, contextualizing the occasion etc., seeing it all as an example of scholarly discourse at work, rather than a finished product, occurred to me about a year or so ago. Continue reading →
What sparked your initial interest in exploring what drives the “political power” of the New Christian Right (NCR) and Concerned Women for America (CWA)? How are such groups commonly approached and analyzed in scholarly discourse and the larger public imagination?
As with many scholars, I suppose, my interest in politically active conservative Christianity (a.k.a, the NCR) is at least somewhat autobiographical. I grew up in a social environment steeped in conservative evangelicalism, and so the claims made by these groups – namely, the valorization of the entire spectrum of conservative politics, including a religiously-rooted patriotism, traditional gender roles, and the superiority of the heterosexual, nuclear family – were not new to me. In a very direct sense, then, my interest in these groups began when, as an undergraduate religious studies major, I was seeking to better understand the appeal of conservative evangelical ideas and their political impact. Continue reading →
“Who Are You?” asks members of Culture on the Edge to reflect on one of their own many identities (whether national, gendered, racial, familial, etc.), theorizing at the same time the self-identification that they each chose to discuss.
I’m am extremely nervous flyer. Walking onto a plane – and preparing for the anxiety of the flight – I enact rituals of certainty. Such practices don’t begin on the plane. They commence in the airport once I’ve arrived at my gate. I might call them rituals of identification for in turning myself into data as often as I do when I’m enacting such practices, I am clear that such things rely on the strategies I enact in reading other people (for my own purposes) – i.e., ones that often involve strategies such as authenticity and strategic essentialism as I scan the crowd trying to take stock of the “who” I might be in company with on the plane. In being a nervous flyer and by reflexively examining my practices, I seemingly learn more about this thing we call identity – how I catalogue others for my own social interests (i.e., protection and safety) and thus, how others read me back. Continue reading →
N.P.: Over the years, you have repeatedly defended the view that deconstruction is not an inherently negative term, that it is not to be understood as criticism or destruction. And indeed in an interview you gave in 1982 and which was subsequently published in Le Monde, you even said that deconstruction is always accompanied by love. Could you comment on this “love”. Is it the same love as in “philia”? Continue reading →
An old story has been making its rounds and sparking discussion online over the past few weeks and it was too good for me to pass up on giving it a little Culture on the Edge consideration.
“I, for one, would like to see the so-called evidence this school has that a 15-year-old girl made a grown man sick by casting a magic spell.” – Joann Bell, Executive Director, ACLU, Oklahoma Chapter.
The story went a little something like this: Fifteen-year old student, Brandi Blackbear, of Union Intermediate High School was accused of “casting a magic spell” that left her teacher sick and hospitalized. She was suspended. A civil rights lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court in Tulsa, Oklahoma on behalf of the student, which indicated that the student was banned from donning and drawing Wiccan signs and symbols in school. Continue reading →
By now we’ve all heard about and perhaps even participated in the debate sparked by FOX news correspondent Megyn Kelly that Santa Claus is white and Jesus is too. Edge member Leslie Smith’s post about this recent tug-of-war of identity claims demonstrated how such conversations are made possible by some highly inventive—even outrageous—ideas. This past week, another assertion that foregrounds the difficulty of taking such outrageous claims seriously posited something curious about what the public outrage reveals or uncovers and what steps we should take next.
Both sides of the debate ultimately rely upon the same tactics and mechanisms that assist Kelly in making such preposterous assertions possible in the first place, suggesting that as much as things have “changed in America,” they also stay the same. Continue reading →