Tenuous Connections

MennoniteIn “The Ghost Rapes of Bolivia,” a story that recently ran on Vice.com, Jean Friedman-Rudovsky reports on a series of rapes that took place in Manitoba Colony, Bolivia, as well as the reaction of the community. According to the story, some men were breaking into houses, drugging, and raping women who—apparently because of the drugs—could not remember the event. Continue reading “Tenuous Connections”

Discourse All the Way Down

a dog chasing a cat

IMG_1120-e1369190127646In Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World, Anne Fausto-Sterling provides us with an interesting metaphor with which to think about the nature/nurture debate. Sometimes the discussion is framed in terms of how much nature and nurture each contribute, as if they’re taking turns filling a bucket. Imagine a 100 gallon bucket:

Suppose two people (oh call one Mr. Nature and the other Ms. Nurture) are filling up that bucket with separate hoses. If Mr. Nature added 70 gallons and Ms Nurture 30, then we could say that the 100 gallons is due 70 percent to nature and 30 percent to nurture. (113) Continue reading “Discourse All the Way Down”

The Soul’s Economy

sklansky_soulsIn The Soul’s Economy: Market Society and Selfhood in American Thought, 1820-1920, Jeffrey Sklansky argues that there’s a fundamental shift in American views on freedom and self-determination in the nineteenth century. While the American revolutionaries thought of freedom and self-determination as tied to property and wealth—i.e., material interests—with the rise of romantic authors like Ralph Waldo Emerson and others, freedom and self-determination shifted to some sort of interior freedom of thought.

[I]n severing the bond between selfhood—or, in the language of the early republic, independence or liberty or virtue—and property, these writers did not necessarily question the transformation of self-employed farming and artisan families into propertyless wage earners. By identifying moral agency with the “inner self” rather than with political and economic sovereignty, they effectively redefined the founding ideals of freedom and democracy in ways that did not directly conflict with the revolution in property relations. (37)

According to Sklansky, they inadvertently “provided ideological cover for class inequality” (72).

Is your body free? Or just your soul?

Religious “Expression”?

kumbh melaSome scholars of religion talk as if cultural stuff—icons, myths, rituals, practices, ideologies, discourses, etc.—allows practitioners to “express” themselves, their religious beliefs, or simply their “religion.” Other scholars talk as if the use of this cultural stuff has the effect of “constituting” (perhaps by “performing”) themselves, their religious beliefs, or their identity. Continue reading “Religious “Expression”?”

Shifting Identification Strategies

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The identifications people make are strategic and context specific, as this article by Gibler, Hutchison, and Miller suggests:

[I]nternational conflict exerts a strong influence on the likelihood and content of individual self-identification, but this effect varies with the type of conflict. Confirming nationalist theories of territorial salience, territorial conflict leads the majority of individuals in targeted countries to identify themselves as citizens of their country. However, individuals in countries that are initiating territorial disputes are more likely to self-identify as members of a particular ethnicity, which provides support for theories connecting domestic salience to ethnic politics.

Being attacked leads you to identify with the nation. But if your nation is the one doing the attacking, all of the sudden you’d rather make alternate identifications …

Imagining Identity

OldSpoolOfThreadWhat if we, as scholars, told the following narrative? In the first century there was a man named Jesus who invented a magical spool of invisible thread. He carried the spool with him everywhere he traveled as an itinerant preacher. When those who heard his message accepted it, he would magically partition the invisible thread, handing an end to each new follower. Jesus’ disciples each carried an end of this invisible thread, and everywhere they went they too distributed it. Like the loaves and the fishes Jesus is said to have multiplied to feed the masses, so was the thread multiplied and divided—like a complicated spider web—across the face of the ancient Mediterranean world. In fact, the thread stretched not only across space but across time as well, although it has been divided innumerable times over the last two millennia. Contemporary followers of Jesus in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches hold the thread today at its various temporal and spatial termini. Continue reading “Imagining Identity”

“Sacred” and “the Sacred”: False Cognates

sacred“Sacred” is an adjective; “the Sacred” is a noun. In The Ideology of Religious Studies, Tim Fitzgerald discusses the adjectival use:

If by ‘sacred’ we mean those things, ideas, places, people, stories, procedures and principles that empirical groups of people value, deem to be constitutive of their collective identity, or will defend to the death, then it seems likely that we have a relatively meaningful crosscultural concept. (19) Continue reading ““Sacred” and “the Sacred”: False Cognates”