The Complexities of Justice

Midway through the Sprinlesliesmithindiag semester of 2013, Leslie Dorrough Smith (on the right of the photo) accompanied a group of undergraduate students from Avila University to a variety of cities in India, including Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. The study abroad course in which the students were enrolled focused on issues of social justice. Read a post by Leslie here, discussing how, when some people (e.g., North Americans) travel to such locales, they report witnessing exploitation all around (such as the women Leslie reports who would let tourists hold their children for a picture–but for a fee). “We only see it as exploitation,” Leslie concludes, “because we have the luxury of doing so, to put it simply.”

Changing the Subject

Merinda Simmons‘s first monograph, Changing the Subject: Writing Women across the African Diaspora, has just been contracted by Ohio State University Press. A critique of the scholarly emphasis on authenticity in literary and postcolonial theory, it offers a counterpoint with readings of several African diasporic texts that demonstrate the contingent and contextual frameworks within which categories like “identity” and “voice” are thought to emerge, demonstrating that, instead of being stable, subjects and subjectivities change as they move from place to place.

That Ain’t The Queen’s English

One of the premises of Culture on the Edge is that an implicit, untheorized norm is still presupposed, and its legitimacy is thereby reproduced rather than being historicized, despite many scholars’ recent efforts to develop what they see to be more nuanced, historically sensitive, and situationally specific approaches to identity studies. For it is not uncommon to find seemingly anti-essentialist scholars now studying various identities in terms of their hybridity, seeing them as creoles, studying how diaspora movements have traveled and changed, and documenting the complexity of syncretism–developments understood as important improvements on what are now seen to be previous generations’ far too simplistic studies of social life. After all, as important a an early sociologist as Emile Durkheim seems merely to have understood “society” to be a homogenous, undifferentiated unit. Continue reading “That Ain’t The Queen’s English”

Unsettling Sikh and Muslim Conflict

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.

It’s Time to Be Honest With Lauryn Hill

Culture on the Edge participant, Monica Miller, recently posted a blog, “It’s Time to Be Honest With Lauryn Hill,” that concludes:

“Over the years, Hill’s lyrical lessons have jolted many from societal slumber and historical amnesia enough to make her a tour de force of the ‘conscious’ hip hop market. But Hill’s troubling portraits of lifestyles not her own are as problematic as the racism and capitalist systems she’s fought for so many years. As she tries to “…figure out how to pay her own tax debts,” may she also realize the expense imposed by her “existential catharsis” on LGBTQ individuals as they continue to fight for justice for their lives and partnerships. As we love to love Hill, let’s love her enough to be honest with her: Enough with responding to one social injustice by perpetuating another. You’re a better MC than that!”

To which Hill responded.

Touna Presents at Canadian Conferences

vaiacssrconfIn early June 2013, Culture on the Edge’s Vaia Touna presented her research at the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion‘s annual meeting, as well as at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies–both held in Victoria, BC. The papers–one rethinking the common modern reading of Euripides’s “Hippolytos” as an expression of individualism and the other redescribing the notion of ancient mystery cults, seeing them not as sites for expressing religious experience (as they are usually described by scholars) but as places where marginal members of the city-state were integrated.