The Alchemy of Circumstances

novelAfter quoting from Maria Iordanidu‘s novel, Loxandra (c. 1963)–a novel set in the early 19th century in the city then known as Constantinople–concerning an episode in which an otherwise unassuming shopkeeper is questioned by the protagonist as to whether he had participated in the massacre of Armenians–Jean-Francois Bayart goes on: Continue reading “The Alchemy of Circumstances”

Takin’ It to the Streets

churchsignIt’s sort of interesting to see how an apparently counter-intuitive model of identity uncontroversially (and probably unintentionally) finds its way into everyday life.

Consider, for example, the above church sign that I snapped on my way back from walking my dog this past weekend. Continue reading “Takin’ It to the Streets”

“Anchors Away!: Or, Can the Subaltern Get a Soundbite?”

Something interesting happened when famous comic bad boy Russell Brand showed up for an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and it’s been making the rounds online ever since.  Hosted by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the morning show is made of a roundtable of pundits and talking heads, mostly discussing politics and current events while making daily dips into pop culture.  And while the co-hosts certainly have their soapboxes (Mika has famously made a second job out of railing against obesity, and Joe was a state representative, for crying out loud), they pride themselves on being serious reporters interested in providing a balance of perspectives when talking about an issue. Continue reading ““Anchors Away!: Or, Can the Subaltern Get a Soundbite?””

Marginalia Review of Books

marginalia

Monica Miller has recently joined Marginalia Review of Books as a contributing editor. Marginalia provides substantive reviews on academic literature concerning history and religion within various fields of study. Miller’s primary role will be helping to develop reviews, essays, and op-eds concerning the intersection of religion and popular music and also identity in the study of religion.

Bloomsbury Advances in Religious Studies

bloomsburyCraig Martin recently joined the series editors for the Bloomsbury Advances in Religious Studies monograph series. Its volumes all aim to clarify the role and place of Religious Studies in the academy, with theoretical aspects underscored through their application to the actual study of religions, often in the form of frontier research.

 

Supplements to MTSR

Logo-brillRussell McCutcheon is one of the three series editors for a newly founded monograph series with Brill of the Netherlands: Supplements to MTSR.

The series considers books for publication that explicitly address issues of theory (whether explanatory or critique) and methodology (the study, not simply the use, of method) in the academic study of religion. The first volume contracted in the series is a retrospective volume celebrating MTSR‘s 25th anniversary.

Marketing and Competing Essentialisms

Picture 2An Idaho company has demonstrated the marketing power of a little religious studies knowledge, producing Jihawg Ammo, which is coated in pork-infused paint. The company asserts, “With Jihawg Ammo, you don’t just kill an Islamist terrorist, you also send him to hell. That should give would-be martyrs something to think about before they launch an attack.” The company tags the product “Peace through pork” because it “promotes peace through the natural deterrence of pork infused ballistic coating.” Continue reading “Marketing and Competing Essentialisms”

The Ambivalence of Intellectuals

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“intellectuals are holders of cultural capital and, even if they are the dominated among the dominant, they still belong among the dominant. That is one of the foundations of their ambivalence….”

So wrote the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (d. 2002), in the closing lines to a 1996 address entitled “The Myth of ‘Globalization’ and the European Welfare State” (published in his little book, Acts of Resistance [29-44]). I think these lines are well wroth remembering when we read scholarship that writes against the grain, as some call it, or which undermines elite narratives by doing history from the ground up (what we once called social history). For, despite what they likely see as their own noble goals, the supposedly silenced voices that they recover are the products of their own travel grants, sabbaticals, and the privilege that comes with earning ones living by writing and talking about features of other people’s lives that strike us as interesting. Continue reading “The Ambivalence of Intellectuals”

“Hey You!”

leninandotheressaysLouis Althusser’s (d. 1990) essay collection, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (1968; English translation 1971), in particular the essay entitled “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Towards an Investigation),” is crucial for anyone interested in rethinking the common perception of identity-as-expressed-quality as instead being the interiorized result of prior and assorted (i.e., among actors of varying authority) social acts of identification and interaction (as briefly suggested in this post). As Althusser wrote in that essay:

I shall then suggest that ideology ‘acts’ or ‘functions’ in such a way that it ‘recruits’ subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or ‘transforms’ the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: ‘Hey, you there!’