Policing Choice

Did you catch the recent controversy over Jennifer Lawrence’s dress? It concerned a recent promotional photo shoot for a new movie, Red Sparrow.

It was identified, in multiple social media comments, as yet another example of the male gaze, of Hollywood using women and female sexuality for its own financial ends, of double standards, etc.

But then this came out: Continue reading “Policing Choice”

Are You Really Free to Read?

9004993292_58782594d3_kI have a book problem. Having built a whole wall of bookshelves recently, and filled much of that space with books we already owned, perhaps I should say that I have a bookshelf problem. My family and I enjoy collecting books, often searching at thrift stores for treasures that others have discarded. We have found a range of works, including works by nineteenth and early twentieth century authors whom we deeply appreciate but would never have found browsing at Barnes and Noble or perusing the suggestions on Amazon. These book-buying endeavors reinforced our experiences browsing bookstores in India and Singapore that also led us to gems not commonly available or even known in the United States. Continue reading “Are You Really Free to Read?”

Prescriptive Descriptions

whiteflightI recently wrote a post, scheduled for a week or so from now, in which I used the term “white flight” — which names the process whereby many U.S. inner cities have, since about the 1960s, lost a large portion of their white population by people moving out to the suburbs — and so I was thinking about linking the term in that post to a definition online, for those who were not already familiar with it.

So, wondering what it said, I first tried the Urban Dictionary (see the full entry here). The first definition listed on the page reads as follows: Continue reading “Prescriptive Descriptions”

Everybody Plays the Fool


When [Walter] Kirn was just starting his novel-writing career, he met a man who was a bold financier, an art collector, a fussy eccentric, a dog lover and a Rockefeller. They became friends.

But over the years Kirn began to learn that the man who called himself Clark Rockefeller was none of that — not even a dog lover. He was a psychopath and a killer.

How did Kirn fall for the fraud? Was Christian Karl Gerhartsriter — aka “Clark Rockefeller” — extraordinarily compelling? Or was the novelist, like a lot of other people drawn to the imposter, duped by his own desire to have an attachment to a famous name?

So opens a radio story on the curious case of Clark Rockefeller — or, might we say instead, the curious case of people, such as Kirn himself, who believed his friend to be the man he claimed to be. The difference between how we approach this story — is it about Rockefeller (pictured above) or Kirn? — tells us much about the social theory used to tell the tale. Continue reading “Everybody Plays the Fool”

Focusing and Forgetting

You need to ignore a lot in order to focus on anything.

SilverLiningIdentification is the act of forgetting.

(Source: Retronaut)

What is the Goal of the Academic Study of Religion?

donigerInterested in some additional thoughts on the Doniger controversy? Then see our own Steven Ramey‘s new post at the blog for the Bulletin for the Study of Religion.

[M]y intent is not to critique Doniger but to critique the tendency across the field to define religions in ways that give preference to one group over another, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally….

“What’s Regular For You?”

6029203887_4ae9a1ff1c_zA few years ago, when our main annual conference was held in Toronto, I walked into a Starbucks downtown, on my way to the convention centre (yes, that’s how Canadians spell it — deal with it). Apart from the curious (though once familiar) experience of all of us standing in a single line and then moving to one of the three open registers each in our turn (instead of my experience here in Tuscaloosa, where it’s each consumer for him/herself once a cashier opens), there was another moment in which the practical conditions of day-to-day life in TO (yeah, that’s what people in the know call it) made evident that a rather different sense of the the subject — of the individual-in-relation-to-the-group — was in operation north of the border.

Continue reading ““What’s Regular For You?””