Before detailing some of my disagreements with this essay, I should say that I was happy to see this article in print as it signals the relevance of what some have called Critical Religion (CR) in our discipline and offers an important opportunity for clarification and further debate. Too often, I feel, we forget that the ultimate aim of scholarship is to advance knowledge and not simply ‘win’ an argument, whatever that may mean in the short term. As someone interested in the idea of Critical Religion and who is trained in Critical Theory (of the Frankfurt School and post-structuralist varieties), I approach this essay as a chance to think more carefully about the aims, influences, and effects of these debates. Continue reading “Critical Religion and the Critical Study of Religion: A Response to Galen Watts and Sharday Mosurinjohn, Part 1”
Drawing on theories of discourse analysis and ideology critique, this study calls attention to an evolution in how secularism, nationalism, and multiculturalism in Euro-Western states are debated and understood as competing groups contest and rearrange the meaning of these terms. This is especially true in the digital age as online cultures have transformed how information is spread, how we imagine our communities, build alliances, and produce shared meaning.
From recent attempts to prohibit religious symbols in public, to Trump’s so-called Muslim bans, to growing disenchantment with the promises of digital media, this study turns the lens how nation-states, organizations, and individuals attempt to “own” the secular to manage cultural differences, shore up group identity, and stake a claim to some version of Western values amidst the growing uncertainties of neoliberal capitalism.
Recently, when I was searching books on Amazon, the site recommended Fabricating Identities — the 3rd volume in the Working with Culture on the Edge book series, edited by Vaia Touna — as a “book of interest” for me. When the Amazon page for the volume loaded (of course I had to go down this rabbit hole), the category menu — located just above the cover image of the book — caught my eye. The genre breakdown (within the “Books” category) reads:
What exactly is “bread,” and who gets to decide? Seems like a rather silly question, right? But the Irish Supreme Court has ruled that the US sandwich food chain Subway does not make their sandwiches with bread — which might be rather strange for many of us to hear. And if they don’t make their sandwiches with bread, what are they made with, and are they even sandwiches? Continue reading “When Bread Is Not Bread”
This volume is not only co-edited by our own Leslie Dorrough Smith, but also features contributions from Edge members Christopher R. Cotter, Russell T. McCutcheon, Martha Smith Roberts, Matt Sheedy, Merinda Simmons, and Vaia Touna. Be sure to check it out!!
(Confession: I’m a sucker for musicals [to the degree that I tinkered with the idea of a musical theater major in college]. Having traded my on-stage destiny for a series of religious studies degrees, however, I humbly offer a different sort of review of the play, Hamilton.)
Like many in the US, I saw Hamilton for the first time earlier this month, when the blockbuster Broadway musical (originally hitting the stage in 2017) aired in movie form on the Disney+ platform. The story of an orphaned immigrant (that is, Alexander Hamilton) coming to America to forge the country in its early days has generated scores of fans. Those who have seen the show know that one among several factors setting it apart is the cast, comprised almost entirely of people of color. In addition, the script is almost never spoken but is rapped or sung. This has made it an incredibly timely musical in terms of addressing not just diverse racial representations, but such representations in the midst of the renewed resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Continue reading ““But Can He Dance?”: Holy Books, Hamilton, and the Production of Sacred Histories”