Real Cheese and the Eucharist: On the Rhetoric of Dietary Restrictions

The other day, I went to a local coffeehouse for breakfast. The restaurant is an entirely gluten-free facility that also caters to other dietary restrictions. The restaurant is somewhat of a hot-spot for those of us with food allergies or dietary restrictions because it accommodates most all of them. While the entire facility is gluten-free (not to be confused with wheat-free), they also have vegan breads and cheeses, so anyone can order most anything on the menu. Continue reading “Real Cheese and the Eucharist: On the Rhetoric of Dietary Restrictions”

PC Power

7608093198_1fb5281ed3_zBooks can be the best Christmas gifts, at least in my humble opinion. I have already finished one novel that I received for Christmas, Singapore Exile Murders by F. van Wyck Mason. Written, published, and set in 1939, the novel incorporates the responses of Europeans and Americans in southeast Asia to the global events leading up to World War II, making it an intriguing historical artifact based on one person’s imaginings. As a piece of data, the language in the novel surprised me at points, including the off-hand use of terms for African-Americans and Chinese that would be considered offensive today.

Beyond illustrating how what is considered acceptable has shifted in the past 75 years, these problematic terms (by our standards) also illustrate the ways everyday language reinforces, even makes appear normal, social hierarchies. The ways that Europeans and European-American characters use these terms in casual speech places African-Americans (who do not appear as characters in the novel) in the position of menial, hard laborers and Chinese (who are primarily servants, rickshaw pullers, and the like) as clearly inferior. The condescending labels thus socialize people into particular positions of inferiority and superiority by making the hierarchy appear natural, simply the way things are. Continue reading “PC Power”

Stars Upon Thars

sneetchesDo you know the tale of the Sneetches? It’s a Dr. Seuss story, published in 1961, about the inhabitants of a beach who are exactly the same apart from some having stars on their bellies. It’s a difference with no necessary significance, but it soon takes on consequence, of course.

Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
“We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!”
And, whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They’d hike right on past them without even talking… Continue reading “Stars Upon Thars”

Perpetual Pilgrims and Indians

First Thanksgiving at PlymouthSome Thanksgiving thoughts for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Despite various corrections and critiques (e.g., here and here), schoolchildren across the U.S. often learn and even reenact the story of Pilgrims and Native Americans joining together for a meal to celebrate the first harvest for the Pilgrims. When considered from the perspective of the study of processes of identification, the reenactment of this origin story perpetuates the position of dominant groups, despite the narrative of cooperation built into the origin story. Continue reading “Perpetual Pilgrims and Indians”