Always Historicize

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You know me, I’m all for critiques of authenticity — the way we authorize happenstance interests by portraying them as normative, inevitable, timeless….

But what about croissants?

There’s a bakery near where we annually visit family, in Canada, and they’ve got fantastic croissants.

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It’s kind’a curious how quickly the critique of authenticity flies out the window when it comes to stopping by, after walking my dog early each morning, to get a few fresh croissants.

Now that’s how you ought to make a croissant.

Moral of the story: the ability to consistently apply critiques is a challenge when it comes to our own investments — i.e., when it comes to a world we ourselves take for granted. For we’re all historically-situated, social actors.

I see this all the time when it comes to, say, critiques of the category religion. Even scholars who say they’re in agreement with those who argue that the category is a European invention of modernity, linked to the colonial age of expansion and rule, still have trouble not seeing religion everywhere. After all, many of us were weened on the concept, defined in particular sorts of ways (belief in god, sets of rituals, origins stories, etc., etc.), and so it makes sense that it’s a fundamental way that we name our world in order to navigate it, partition it, prioritize and then arrange elements within it, etc.

So while I know that the fact that I’m used to a certain sort of croissant (one I rarely get where I now live) isn’t necessarily linked to how that bread must be made, when biting into one from that bakery, with the sense of nostalgia that floods back from the taste, the texture…, well, it’s understandable how, no matter how strong the arguments one offers, people still think there’s a religious nature ingrained in the human.

The challenge, for scholars, though, is to swim against that stream. After all, “Always historicize” was Fredric Jameson‘s advice.

Even when eating a croissant.

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