Of Trigger Warnings and Petty Things

I was recently listening to an episode of The Sunday Edition (a popular weekly radio show on the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster), on the topic of free speech on university campuses, and was intrigued by the following exchange between host Michael Enright and his guest James Turk, who is director of The Centre of Free Expression at Ryerson University in Toronto (give a listen to their conversation here). Continue reading “Of Trigger Warnings and Petty Things”

When You Don’t Look the Part

I brought my car to the dealership recently to have some work done. While the service department — interesting they’re called “service” and not “mechanics,” signaling (or suggesting?) perhaps a higher level of expertise — was working on my car, I started checking out some of the cars in the showroom. As I started eyeing the car I hope to get in a few years, I expected to be interrupted by a salesperson who would come running over to try and sell me on the car. Continue reading “When You Don’t Look the Part”

Taking the Popular Wisdom Seriously is a Little Disturbing, No?

Dylann Roof, suspect convicted of Charleston Shooting

As a quick following-up to this morning’s earlier post on how quickly we tend to conclude, but only in some cases, that certain gunmen in mass shootings are “lone wolves” (whose actions couldn’t be anticipated), it occurred to me that there’s a largely unseen ramification to attributing individual, psychological motives to the actions of white guys as opposed to the ease with which many of us seem to attribute planned, political motives to pretty much everyone else who does something heinous. Continue reading “Taking the Popular Wisdom Seriously is a Little Disturbing, No?”

How Many Lone Wolves Does it Take to Make a Pack?

Photo of suspect in Las Vegas mass shooting

Yes, that’s the photo of 64 year old Stephen Paddock, the now dead suspect in last night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.

At present, 50 people are reported killed, at an outdoor concert, with over 100 injured. (Learn more at the New York Times.) Continue reading “How Many Lone Wolves Does it Take to Make a Pack?”

The Parable of the Lemonade Stand

photo credit: http://www.gamacheseries.com/a-rule-against-murder-homemade-lemonade/

This past summer, as they have many times before, my kids asked if they could hold a lemonade stand. I’ll admit having mixed feelings about the whole enterprise. My less enthusiastic side tends to perseverate on my own lost work time and the endless number of supplies and chores that accompany that task, for no matter how much they insist they can and will do it independently, that never comes to pass.

When I’m at my most enthusiastic, though, I get tickled at their excitement, not to mention how effectively they convince strangers to drink their warm and questionably tasty beverages. After all, it was my children who, several summers ago, informed a customer at their kool-aid stand that the only reason why we had kool-aid in our house was because it was left over from their mom’s yarn-dyeing experiment. Since their mom would never ever let them drink the stuff, they added, they were (naturally) selling it to strangers.

All of that is perfectly true. Continue reading “The Parable of the Lemonade Stand”

Figuratively the Humanities

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has once again irked humanities scholars. In 2014, he had declared philosophy a “useless” enterprise (a stance his colleague Bill Nye once held and has since revised). This time Tyson drew backlash for what he didn’t say.

The public intellectual tweeted about the lack of educational enterprises helping students discern the construction of “facts” and “data” in an age of “fake news.” Tyson has long been an advocate of meta-cognitive pedagogy. But the tweet’s concise pronouncement suggested that no one is doing that work. Continue reading “Figuratively the Humanities”

Who Won the Civil War?

Confederate memorial carving on Stone Mountain

“The winners write the history” is an easy way to highlight that those who have power are the ones who control how history is told. But this adage needs a bit more nuance, as sometimes those who lose end up on the winning side anyway. In the case of the American Civil War, the accounts that we tell in the United States too often legitimize the Confederacy. While some descriptions receive significant critique, such as Secretary Ben Carson describing slaves as “immigrants”, typical accounts are more subtle, hardly noticed by many. For example, narratives seldom refer to the actions of the Confederacy as treasonous, even though Andrew Johnson’s 1868 pardon given to those who fought for the Confederacy describes the rebellion as an act of treason. Continue reading “Who Won the Civil War?”

The Utility of the Familiar and the Strange

I assume you’ve heard the news of the two major hurricanes (and the damage they caused) that recently came ashore in the US — the first hitting the shores of southern Texas and then the other (this past weekend, just over a week after Texas was hit), going up the full length of Florida.

During the commentaries on these two events — whether by the media, politicians, or people who lived through them — I found it interesting how comparative analysis was deployed to make sense of the events.

Or, better put, to figure out what to do in the face of them. Continue reading “The Utility of the Familiar and the Strange”

So, you heard the news? Culture on the Edge has expanded the core group and gone back to basics; the peer review guest blog (what we call Chapter 2, up on the main menu) is still here and looking for interesting posts, of course, but just as our focus on a common book helped to get this initiative off the ground (as you may recall, it was a book by J-F Bayart) we’ve decided that we’re going to read a couple books each semester, together. Continue reading “”

The Next Chapter of Culture on the Edge: New Collaborations


At Culture on the Edge, we’d like to think that one of our strengths is our academic diversity. While many from our original group have come from some area of the study of religion, we have a variety of areas of specialization — from Greece, to India, to the United States, from ancient history, academic discourse, and gender, to religious identifications, music, and literature. These many areas of specialization have prompted challenging and constructive conversations as we have grappled with issues in the study of identification. As we welcomed guest bloggers aboard (in what we’ve called “Chapter 2” of the blog), we’ve seen even more new perspectives added to this ongoing and ever-evolving study. Continue reading “The Next Chapter of Culture on the Edge: New Collaborations”