Marketing the Authentic Taco

As I drive through my home city looking for a place to eat lunch, I feel overwhelmed by advertising that offers what seems to be an endless array of food options. Do I want fresh and healthy or fast and fried? How about vegetarian, seafood, gluten free, halal, burgers, pub food, buffet, Chinese, fine dining, Indian, local, or organic? While my options seem endless, there is one type of food that seems to be available on every street ­‑ “authentic.” And with so many selling it, how does one differentiate between the inauthentic and the authentic? Continue reading “Marketing the Authentic Taco”

A Man, A Tan, “God’s Plan”

Drake with his right hand up beside his face. An image from his music video "Hotline Bling"

Earlier this month Aubrey “Drake” Graham revealed that the knotting of his purse strings to his heartstrings are all a part of “God’s Plan,” the title of his latest music video.

The billboard hit features him giving out the video’s $999,631.90 production budget to the people of Miami. Gifts ranged from surprise shopping sprees to impromptu educational grants to unexpected spa treatments. The emotional reception shown in the video matched the public’s initial positive reactions.

However, the Canadian rapper’s philanthropy—like the Bible—has since been subject to varied interpretations. You’re likely familiar with the more skeptical takes. Continue reading “A Man, A Tan, “God’s Plan””

On Kings and Trump Cards

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

During the Super Bowl, RAM Trucks debuted a controversial truck commercial splicing images of Americana with a sermon excerpt from slain Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

After outrage gave way to discourse, cultural critics were quick to point to the irony of Dodge’s signification. In the originating sermon, “The Drum Major’s Instinct,” King critiques self-interested pursuits that hinder people’s ability to see the value in others. He literally calls out Americans who ride in expensive “Chrysler” vehicles for the ego trip. NB: FiatChrysler Automobiles is the parent company of RAM.

To make the point,  the left-leaning magazine Current Affairs re-edited the commercial with an audio excerpt from the same sermon that they believe to be more indicative of King’s message. Continue reading “On Kings and Trump Cards”

Culture on the Edge is in Bonn!

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Members of Culture on the Edge are in Bonn, Germany, at a conference entitled Hijacked!: A Critical Treatment of the Public Rhetoric of “Good” and “Bad” Religion.  We are thrilled to be working alongside the Forum Internationale Wissenschaft to investigate the politics and social structures that inform our public conversations about religion.

Tune in soon for conference updates and snazzy pics of Culture on the Edge at work!

Follow the conference at #hijacked2017

 

photo credit: http://www.budgetbestemmingen.nl/bestemmingen/duitsland/bonn/

Always Historicize

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You know me, I’m all for critiques of authenticity — the way we authorize happenstance interests by portraying them as normative, inevitable, timeless….

But what about croissants? Continue reading “Always Historicize”

So Wrong It’s Right

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I watched “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” (2002) the other day — sure, I’ve seen it a few times before but I always get a kick out of the way it lampoons the creation of diaspora identities and the way they can end up being over-the-top parodies (because they’re based on estranged memories) of the thing people think they’re just modeling. Continue reading “So Wrong It’s Right”

Reason to Believe

Picture 8Did you catch the recent interview with Tom Jones, on National Public Radio? He’s 75 now and still going strong. He has an autobiography out and a new album and was reflecting, in the interview, on how, with age, he’s now able to sing certain songs with more credibility than when he was younger. Continue reading “Reason to Believe”

On the Self-Mystification of Intellectuals

pierre-bourdieuThis is part of a collection of posts of quotations from The Sociologist and the Historian, (first published in French in 2010 and in English in 2015), a short collection of transcripts from a series of late 1987/early 1988 radio interviews between Roger Chartier and the late social theorist, Pierre Bourdieu.

As far as populism is concerned, I do not believe that I’ve left the least room for ambiguity. Here again, I could use a Socratic metaphor: Socrates questions, but he does not take the answers he is given as legal tender. And the sociologist knows very well that people who give answers in perfectly good faith do not necessarily speak the truth. His whole work consists in constructing the conditions for elaborating truth on the basis of observed behaviors, of discourses, writings, etc. Even if there are always a few imbeciles who believe that the common people speak more truly than others. In fact, one aspect of people being particularly dominated is that they are particularly dominated by the symbolic mechanisms of domination. For example, anyone who thinks (this was the fashion at the time the left was in power) that putting a microphone in front of the mouth of a miner will gather the truth about miners; in fact, what you get are the trade union discourses of the last thirty years; and when you do the same with a farmer, you get the discourses of schoolteachers — transformed. So the idea that you could find a kind of place of original insight in the social world, whether this is the intellectuals, or the proletariat, or some other group, is one of those mystiques that have enabled intellectuals to give themselves a boost, but on the basis of a dramatic self-mystification. The sociologist listens, questions, has people speak, but he also gives himself the means of subjecting every discourse to criticism. That goes without saying in the profession, but I think it is not known outside of it. (25-6)

Listen to the original radio broadcast, in French, here.
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“How do I pronounce it again?”

Picture 9At least here in North American, it’s likely you’ve had General Tso’s Chicken if you’ve got to a Chinese restaurant. (And fortune cookies, of course.)

Picture 10But who was General Tso? Did he really like chicken? And where’d the dish come from?

This new documentary would be really useful in classes interested in tackling just what it means to assume something is authentic or, better yet, to exemplify how identity is, in fact, a public and always ongoing collaborative exercise — in this case, between cooks, armed with certain sorts of recipes, and eaters, who arrive at their restaurants with very different tastes.

Almost Black?

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Almost Black, the forthcoming story and book by “Jojo,” err, Vijay, an “Indian American who got into medical school pretending to be an African American” has the internet abuzz and many in a rage. After shaving his head and trimming his “long Indian eyelashes,” 17 years ago Vijay Chokal-Ingam, the “Indian-American frat boy” with a 3.1 GPA, transmuted into “Jojo,” the African American affirmative action (which he refers to as state sponsored racism) applicant to medical school.

“Why now?,” many have asked, to this Vijay responds that “…he’s revealing his race ruse now because he heard that UCLA is considering strengthening its affirmative-action admissions policies,” arguing that, “…it’s a myth that affirmative action benefits the underprivileged.” Also, and perhaps most pressing, he has begun promotion for a memoir he is working on, Almost Black, which chronicles his “social experiment.” To add humor to the explicitly politically problematic, Vijay pats himself on his own back by affirming the public benefit of him not becoming a doctor. Continue reading “Almost Black?”