The Violence that We Like

The online laments that followed the second to last Game of Thrones episode, “The Bells,” is instructive, I think, for it makes evident that  many of us support violence when it is in service of our interests. Continue reading “The Violence that We Like”

Fame, What’s Your Name…?


I’ve been watching “Huge in France” on Netflix, a show based on the premise that a famous French comedian comes to the US to rekindle (or, better put, kindle) a relationship with his teenage son (an aspiring sunglasses model living in LA), the result of a fling some years earlier with a young American tourist.  It stars Gad Elmaleh, who plays himself and, yes, who is actually a very famous French comedian. But, of course, none of the Americans in the show have ever heard of him — much as many viewers here might have never heard of the actor (he’s also big in Quebec, they say). Continue reading “Fame, What’s Your Name…?”

On the Spot with Russell McCutcheon

“On the Spot” backs members of Culture on the Edge into a corner to talk about their backgrounds, their ongoing work, and what might be gained by an alternative understanding of how identity works.

 1. When people ask what you study, what do you tell them?

Depending who it is I might say “You” and then wink — if it’s a scholar of religion asking, that is. So although I was originally trained in what was called the philosophy of religion — taking doctoral courses on Plato, Kant, with a very early interest in what is commonly called the problem of evil, writing one of my three comprehensive exams on ancient Greek religion and philosophy, etc. — I soon moved to what our program at Toronto had just invented as method & theory, a bit of a catch-all category for some but which, at least for some of us, meant a particular approach to examining how scholars went about their work (not to mention an interest in developing naturalistic theories to explain the existence and function of religion). So although I had an early interest in theories of religion, I’ve come to be interested in theories of “religion” itself, so I study the history of my own field and the ways we go about our work, the tools we use and the larger institutional and social settings in which our work developed and is today carried out. So, really, I’m interested in the politics of classification, as exemplified in this one academic field but in a wide variety of other places as well, dipping into a tradition that owes much to, among others, the late Mary Douglas’s work in anthropology. Continue reading “On the Spot with Russell McCutcheon”

The Blind Spot of Dissent

Have you heard the uproar about the decision not to televise the presentation of some Oscar categories on this year’s upcoming broadcast? It was reversed the other day, but the plan had been to deal with the ever-increasing length of the annual telecast by excluding four presentations from the live show that viewers would see — and awarding them instead during the commercial breaks. Continue reading “The Blind Spot of Dissent”

Shall We Dance…?

Here in the US we’re now seeing a commercial for Playstation’s virtual reality system, featuring a gamer/game character who quickly realizes that she’s got some new abilities.

Take a look. Continue reading “Shall We Dance…?”

Subtitles

I’ve long found it curious when producers decide a subtitle is needed; those of us in North America addicted to streaming Scandinavian detective dramas might be more than accustomed to reading the bottom of the screen these days (so yes, we now all know what “tack” means), but what about when you’re watching a Travel Channel host talk to someone speaking English in contemporary Scotland…?

Do we really need subtitles, just because it’s an accent that might be a little off our own English register? Continue reading “Subtitles”

“…, built walls out of chain-link fences.”

Anyone following US news over the past weeks surely knows about the effects (intended or not) of the Trump administration’s recently instituted zero tolerance policy on unauthorized border crossings — now, even those claiming asylum status, if not entering at an authorized point of entry, risk having accompanying minors taken away form them, inasmuch as the adults are now being charged with a crime and, once in the criminal justice system, are disallowed from carrying out normal parenting duties.

That these now unaccompanied children are being held in various locales around the US (including tent cities and in what certainly seems to be hastily created facilities in what were once so-called big box stores), with no indication when they will (or even if they will) be reunited with their parents, has caused outrage in the past days among some while, for others, has prompted strong defenses of the policy (which has been described by supporters of the administration as not being a policy at all but, instead, the sad effect forced on them by what they term “a broken immigration system”). Continue reading ““…, built walls out of chain-link fences.””

And, with that history off the table, we can sell our app…

Have you seen the recent Babbel commercial — for a language-learning app — that starts out as follows:

Ever wonder why Europeans seem to speak so many languages…?

And their answer is…? Continue reading “And, with that history off the table, we can sell our app…”

Policing Choice

Did you catch the recent controversy over Jennifer Lawrence’s dress? It concerned a recent promotional photo shoot for a new movie, Red Sparrow.

It was identified, in multiple social media comments, as yet another example of the male gaze, of Hollywood using women and female sexuality for its own financial ends, of double standards, etc.

But then this came out: Continue reading “Policing Choice”