Symbols serve as a significant way to express identity within society. Crosses generally identify someone as a Christian, a hammer and sickle as a communist, and black and white houndstooth as a University of Alabama fan. Of course, that simple equation provides an arena for significant competition about exactly which symbol represents which ideas. The apparent incongruency of Native Americans wearing swastikas on their basketball uniforms (Chilocco Indian Agricultural School in Oklahoma, 1908) derives from the assumption that symbols have a defined meaning. As with identity labels generally, the meanings of symbols like the swastika shift over time, and seldom does a symbol have only one meaning.
Katy P. Sian, Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict: Mistaken Identities, Forced Conversion, and Postcolonial Formations (Lexington Books, 2013).
Sian focuses on the process of identification and the ways the interests of those who identify as Sikhs and the context of contemporary Britain generate narratives about “dangerous Muslims” seducing young Sikh women. These narratives address multiple community issues (e.g., shifting gender relations, generational differences, differentiation from a feared Muslim other, alliance with Europeans, etc.). Although a little thin in places, she clearly illustrates Sikh identity as continually constructed, not pre-existing.
During its working session in Chicago, in November 2012, the members of Culture on the Edge (pictured below) took some time to record a conversation on identity creation and its study, for The Religious Studies Project (RSP)–a series of podcasts created and maintained by UK grad students that is devoted to the work of scholars of religion from around the world.
Click here to listen to our conversation.
Apart from thanking RSP’s Christopher Cotter and David Robertson for their interest in our work, we would like to thank Andie Alexander, then a student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, for assisting with the technology, and also thank the Department for supporting the group.)
Steven Ramey was the 2012-13 President of the Southeast Region of the American Academy of Religion (AAR). Here he gives the Presidential Plenary Address for its annual (held in South Carolina in March of 2013) entitled, “Accidental Favorites: The Implicit in the Study of Religions.” Although not referencing Culture on the Edge explicitly, the themes Ramey discusses are directly related to many of the group’s–as Jonathan Z. Smith named them in his own career–persistent preoccupations.
(Thanks to Andie Alexander, a graduate of the University of Alabama’s Department of Religious Studies, for filming Steven.)
Originally posted on the Bulletin for the Study of Religion blog
New analysis suggests that almost 1 in 5 people in the United States have no religious affiliation! Media coverage has sensationalized the publication of this analysis from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and various church and institutional leaders have presented explanations for the increase of the “Nones,” as some call them, and suggestions of how to change the trend. Continue reading “Creatio Ex Nihilo: Pew Forum and the “Nones””