On the Spot with Vaia Touna

“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.

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Q: Vaia, you focused some of your scholarship on ancient Greek texts both before and after beginning to read social theory – could you give us an example of how the theorists you’ve read have affected the way that you now approach these ancient materials?

A: My Masters was on Euripides’ tragedy Hippolytus and the notion of Meden Agan (i.e., moderation) and how it was understood in the 5th century BCE Athens. In order to write my thesis back then, of course, I read a lot of secondary literature and commentaries on the play, heavily descriptive works on the “religion” of the ancient world, and of course how ancients might have thought/felt and the universality of their meanings that (we today presume) stay unalterable in their texts—meanings that modern scholars, with the right tools, will be able to retrieve just like the archaeologists dig up and unearth the past. I did all that in my effort to better understand and recreate that ancient world. This approach to the ancient material has changed once I started reading theorists like Russell McCutcheon, Jonathan Z. Smith, Bruce Lincoln, Michel Foucault, and others; now my data are not just these ancient texts (whether literature, or statues, vases, etc.) but also the commentaries that previously served as my “way into” the ancient world, for I came to realize that the world I was entering was the world and time period of those scholars. Continue reading “On the Spot with Vaia Touna”

The Color of Munny

2012-07-15-COLORRUN1The Color Run was in town yesterday — I know because the police blocked off the road to Munny Sokol Park, where I often walk my dog on the weekend. And a few Facebook friends are already posting pics, clad in white, smiling, awaiting the colored cornstarch that hits them in different zones along the 5 k race. Continue reading “The Color of Munny”

The Evidence of Experience

scottJoan Wallach Scott, the well known historian, wrote a provocative and lengthy essay on the manner in which social historians and many area specialists have mistakenly drawn upon experience as if it was the evidence/starting point for their work (that is, material culture is seen an expression of a prior experience) rather than problematizing how public claims of having had an experience are themselves social and historical products. The essay was published in Critical Inquiry 17/4 (1991): 773-797 and is posted online as a PDF. Those wishing to rethink identity studies will benefit from this essay.

Learn more about Scott’s recent book on the politics of the issue of Muslim women and veils here.