What Did You Mean?

8373155559_515f69c2b2_z

What makes something offensive? In the contemporary context, some attempt to censor (often through social media campaigns) presentations that they consider offensive, making that label particularly useful for restricting public discourse. Two stories from December highlight the complexity of labeling something offensive.

A shopper in California during the holiday season noticed that wrapping paper in the Hanukkah section of a store had swastikas incorporated into the design. Deeply troubled by this symbol that the shopper associated (for obvious reasons) with Nazism, she reported it to the manager. With the story reaching the media, the store removed the wrapping paper with the offensive design nationwide and began an investigation into how the design was created and approved. Continue reading “What Did You Mean?”

Who Are You? I’m an Alabamian

Picture 2Who Are You?” is an ongoing series that asks members of Culture on the Edge to reflect on one of their own many identities (whether national, gendered, racial, familial, etc.), theorizing at the same time the self-identification that they each chose to discuss.

When, back in early 2001, I got the job as Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama I was working at what was then called Southwest Missouri State University, in Springfield, MO, and I recall sending out an email to my friends and colleagues in North America and Europe, to let them know that I’d soon be moving. Many wrote back their congratulations, of course, but I noticed a curious thing: unlike my Canadian and European friends, many of my U.S. colleagues’ congratulations came with what I read as subtle qualifications, equivocations, maybe even an unwritten sigh or two. For, sooner or later, they’d write something like, “Alabama? Really?” or “Wow. Well, good luck.”

It seemed that while others had read the part about becoming a department chair or moving to a major state university, others couldn’t get past the part about moving to Alabama. Continue reading “Who Are You? I’m an Alabamian”

It’s Not Fair!

lensA brief news story on Alabama Public Radio recently discussed the delay of an Alabama State School Board vote on social studies textbook adoption because of some complaints that several of the texts demonstrated bias. The groups petitioning for the exclusions, including the Eagle Forum of Alabama and Act for America asserted that several texts contained anti-Christian and pro-Muslim statements. Continue reading “It’s Not Fair!”

You Know You’re a Member of a Dominant Group When…

edgetears…  you not only name your sports teams after the people your ancestors conquered but taunt the opposing high school football team with witty banners referencing events those vanquished peoples’ descendents consider to be terrible catastrophes inflicted upon their groups by your own predecessors. Continue reading “You Know You’re a Member of a Dominant Group When…”