Whose Interests Are Served?

Aastha TV ChannelA video that focused on religion among the urban middle class in India a couple of years ago illustrates what happens when people discuss problems with applying the category “religion.” The journalist quotes Ashis Nandy, an internationally recognized scholar, who brings up the problems applying the category “religion” to the context of India (starting at 3:52). Continue reading “Whose Interests Are Served?”

On the Spot with Monica Miller

“On the Spot” backs members of Culture on the Edge into a corner to talk about their backgrounds, their ongoing work, and what might be gained by an alternative understanding of how identity works.

monicaQ: Identity and identification are words the members of Culture on the Edge are using to stand in for two different, and likely opposed, scholarly approaches to the study of who we see ourselves and others as being; whereas the first presumes a stable inner quality or sentiment only later projected outward into the public world, the latter starts with a series of public practices and social situations that are eventually interiorized. In your own research specialty – Hip Hop culture and rap music in particular, but also the wider field of the study of African American religion — can you illustrate the difference between these two approaches? Continue reading “On the Spot with Monica Miller”

On the Spot with Craig Martin

“On the Spot” backs members of Culture on the Edge into a corner to talk about their backgrounds, their ongoing work, and what might be gained by an alternative understanding of how identity works.

craigguitarQ: Craig, the shift that we’re all making at Culture on the Edge – from describing identities that either do or do not complement each other to studying the historically situated identification practices that make it possible to claim an identity – is not all that typical for scholars of religion. Do you agree? And if so, then what did you do your early work on and when (and why) did you start to make this theoretical shift?

A: I find that a lot of scholars claim that there is, of course, no essence to any religious or cultural tradition, but who then go on to talk as if there was. Continue reading “On the Spot with Craig Martin”

Islamophobia

Beck-brotherhood1The recent round of criticism of FOX News’s online interview of Reza Aslan has got me thinking a little more about this charge of Islamophobia that you often hear leveled by those on the political left — as in those who criticized any analysis of this episode that failed to out the FOX network (or other media personalities) as stirring the embers of hatred among some segments of the U.S. population of Muslims, either at home or abroad. While the bizarre questions posed to Aslan about not disclosing an identity that he in fact routinely discusses in the media — insinuating, it would seem, that some worldwide conspiracy would finally be evident if the American public knew that a Muslim author had written a book on Jesus?! — or the breath-taking conspiracy theories of some commentators on the political right (such as Glenn Beck, in action above) are quite troubling to me in a number of ways, I’m not so sure about this label of Islamophobia.  Continue reading “Islamophobia”

Selective Cultural Determinism

Picture 3Did you read our earlier post on using cultural generations as causal explanations? Interested in a follow-up in much the same vein?

 

Misplaced Agency

Reza AslanThe assumptions within the assertions of identification in the Reza Aslan/Fox News interview have received some attention this week, including Craig Martin’s “Identity Claims Play out on Fox” and Russell McCutcheon‘s “Are You Buying It?” both on this blog. A different comment from Aslan, though, grabbed my attention (unfortunately not for its uniqueness). In addition to emphasizing his academic credentials to defend his study of the historical Jesus, published as Zealot, he argues that his identification as Muslim is irrelevant because his book “overturns pretty much everything that Islam also thinks about Jesus.” Since his work is not trying to promote Islamic orthodoxy, it seems that his religious identification is irrelevant.

Continue reading “Misplaced Agency”

Identity Claims Play Out on FOX

Aslan on FOX

The interview with Reza Aslan on FOX News is already internet famous. (You can watch it here if you haven’t already seen it.) Continue reading “Identity Claims Play Out on FOX”

Baby I Was Born this Way

Lady-Gaga-Born-This-Way-Video-17-1024x570The other day a friend on Facebook posted a fun cover version of Lady Gaga’s 2011 song “Born this Way” — a song celebrated (or, all depending on your politics, condemned) as an anthem for the tolerant left. For example, a verse reads as follows:

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to be brave. Continue reading “Baby I Was Born this Way”

All-American Fireworks, Hamburgers, Frankfurters and Yoga

With all-American Fourth of July festivities like fireworks, frankfurters, and hamburgers, we continually construct our identification with an imagined community, as Benedict Anderson  emphasized thirty years ago. Like the nation, the values that we associate with the United States, (e.g., democracy, equality, and liberty) are imagined constructs whose conceptions shift over time.

The United States is a nation of immigrants with the Statue of Liberty welcoming the “huddled masses” one of those frequently invoked traits. Beyond questions over the place of Native Americans in the nation of immigrants and contemporary debates over “immigration reform” and “border security,” the recent court case involving a yoga program in the Encinitas, California, public schools (which I have discussed previously here and here) illustrates the imagined nature of this national trait in a surprising way. Continue reading “All-American Fireworks, Hamburgers, Frankfurters and Yoga”

Agreement and the Right to Speak

People who identify themselves as a member of a community sometimes limit who can represent “their” community, especially if they perceive the community as marginalized or misrepresented in some fashion. Generally, the argument is that only those identified as being within the community have the right to make public representations of it. As an example, a few who identify as Hindus have complained about those not born as Hindus making public and academic assertions about things designated “Hinduism.” Continue reading “Agreement and the Right to Speak”