The Blind Spot of Dissent

screenshot of news article reading "Academy reverses decision, will air all oscars categories live"

Have you heard the uproar about the decision not to televise the presentation of some Oscar categories on this year’s upcoming broadcast? It was reversed the other day, but the plan had been to deal with the ever-increasing length of the annual telecast by excluding four presentations from the live show that viewers would see — and awarding them instead during the commercial breaks. Continue reading “The Blind Spot of Dissent”

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Ideology

In the midst of the current presidential race here in the U.S., with all the rhetoric about who’s out and who’s in (whether the framework in question regards presidential contenders or who has access to the citizenship that would allow a person to vote for them), I thought it might be time to share one of my favorite clips from A Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, one that I use in my classes quite a bit, in which Slavoj Žižek discusses the seeming universality of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and, in particular, the “Ode to Joy”. “Unity” is always manufactured by exercising certain exclusions. A good thing to keep in mind during this presidential cycle as more candidates start dropping out and more political ads keep rolling in.

Fighting Exclusion with Exclusion

Algodones_sand-dune-fenceDonald Trump’s position statement last week excluding Muslims from entering the United States generated a round of bipartisan condemnation, as the White House spokesperson asserted that the statement disqualified Trump from the Presidency and Dick Cheney, among others, argued that the position “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.” While I certainly agree that Trump’s discriminatory approach should be rejected, the effort to exclude the excluder invites reflection on acts of identification. Continue reading “Fighting Exclusion with Exclusion”

Is Inclusion Possible?

14455178419_56118bd8d6_oClassification is a political act. Like the creators of “Coexist” images, the author/editor of any discussion of World Religions has the power to choose what groups are discussed and who is left out. In a recent critique of the Norton Anthology of World Religions, Brianna Donaldson carefully discusses two groups that the editors excluded. Donaldson describes Jainism and Sikhism as being “footnotes,” often not included in lists of major world religions, perhaps because of their challenge to the status quo and their size in contrast to communities identified as Hindu and Buddhist. No list of World Religions exists outside of the context in which it is created, with the political and social interests that become a part of that selection process. Donaldson’s assertions brought to my mind Jonathan Z. Smith’s assertion,

It is impossible to escape the suspicion that a world religion is simply a religion like ours, and that it is, above all, a tradition that has achieved sufficient power and numbers to enter our history to form it, interact with it, or thwart it (“Religion, Religions, Religious”).

Continue reading “Is Inclusion Possible?”

Inclusivity as a Strategy of Exclusion

webelieve1Interreligious dialogue and notions of tolerance, while suggesting inclusivity, often employ exclusions that identify insiders and outsiders, although these insiders and outsiders are different than the boundaries commonly employed in communities. An interesting example of this paradox is Webelieve2, a board game advertised as encouraging discussion among people with different religious commitments. The game is designed to create an opportunity to “learn about others” and “to connect with others.” While targeted marketing to Religious Studies professorsassumes certain interests inform the study of religion (several of my colleagues and I recently received emails advertising this game), the game also reflects particular assumptions about religion that create a variety of exclusions that seem to counter the instructions’ interest in creating an environment where “people feel ‘safe’ when sharing.”

Continue reading “Inclusivity as a Strategy of Exclusion”

A Slap in Which Face?

Ayaan-Hirsi-AliHave you followed the controversy at Bandeis University over its invitation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (the former Dutch parliamentarian and outspoken critic of, for example, what she sees as the mistreatment of women in Islam or Islam’s role in Europe) to receive an honorary degree this year? Continue reading “A Slap in Which Face?”