George Washington’s Sacred Fire—in which Peter A. Lillback argues that “founding father” George Washington was a Christian and not a deist—garnered a great deal of media attention when first published in 2006. On amazon.com the book currently enjoys 165 user reviews, from readers asserting that the book is “awesome” and “indispencible” [sic] to readers asserting that the book is “illegitimate,” “junk,” and “propaganda.” Why does it matter if George Washington was a deist or a Christian? What’s at stake in the application of one of these two labels onto a figure long dead? Continue reading “The Politics of Choice”
S. Brent Plate’s recent post at Religion Dispatches suggests that when it comes to religious studies, scholars are, in a sense, both insiders and outsiders at the same time. He comes to this conclusion through a comparison of the field of art to the field of religious studies. Iconoclasm in art, he suggests, is actually its own sort of iconification (my horrible word, not his). Artist Ai Weiwei, for instance, photographed himself destroying ancient Chinese artifacts. According to Plate, “iconoclasm is itself an iconic act. One image replaces another. Ai was careful to have his iconoclastic act documented, skillfully shot on camera and reproduced for many to see.” Recently another artist publicly smashed some of Ai’s art in an art gallery, where the act appeared to be partly protest and partly performance art. Iconoclasm is yet again a new iconification. Outsiders who are critical of the tradition are at the same time insiders, extending the tradition in new ways. Plate concludes that, “Tradition is itself a series of creative and destructive acts, stability and instability; the icons are the tradition as much as the images of iconoclasm. Nothing stays the same.” Continue reading “Differentiating Fields”
“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.
Identities are weird things. Presumably, telling you my identity lets you draw up associations and predictions about me and my behavior based on that identity, as well as sympathies or antipathies, depending perhaps on whether or not you share the identity at hand. So here goes: I was a Wednesday baby. That’s right—I was born on a Wednesday. Crazy, right? I’m one of them. Continue reading “Who Are You? I’m Wednesday’s Child”
When I was in graduate school, One of my philosophy professors, when lecturing on Kant, said something like the following: “In making this argument, Kant is sort of in a tight spot here—between a rock and a hard place. What does Kant do when backed into a corner? Like all philosophers, he makes a distinction.” Continue reading “Making Distinctions”
This old image recently made the rounds again in my Facebook feed, and I shared it myself. It got me into a little bit of an argument on one of my friends’ wall. The objection was along these lines: if we water down “feminism” to gender equity, which pretty much everyone can agree to these days, then it becomes meaningless—it’s not substantial enough of a vision to drive a real agenda. Continue reading “Reorganizing Sympathies”
For Foucault, a grid of classification is an application of power that permits action on a subject, perhaps making him or her a subject of disciplinary practices that nudge the subject towards conformity with an ideal posited within the grid at hand. Continue reading “On Agency”