Have you seen this beer new commercial? Continue reading “A Character Study”
In a recent New York Times interview, author Jhumpa Lahiri expressed a certain frustration with the ways people sometimes classify literature.
I don’t know what to make of the term “immigrant fiction.” Writers have always tended to write about the worlds they come from. Continue reading “Constructing Worlds”
In 2008 I took a small group of undergraduate students from our Department at the University of Alabama to Thessaloniki, Greece (that’s us above, with a famous philosopher, who has a shiny toe, likely from tourists rubbing it), where I had been for a conference a couple years before, and at which I first met my Culture on the Edge colleague, Vaia Touna. I’ve returned several times since that first trip, sometimes with other students and sometimes to help further my own school’s initiative to establish a long term relationship with Aristotle University — a school whose namesake was from a village about an hour’s drive east of the city. Continue reading ““The Same…, But Different””
A New York Times article on Sunday about the use of emoji (the increasing number of smiley face options for texts and social media) discussed differences in the ways people use those symbols in different societies. A Facebook project manager, for example “traveled to India and Japan to better understand the differences.” After his travels, he is quoted as saying.
“We discovered that in the Asian culture, the expression on an emoji face isn’t necessarily what conveys emotion. It’s the context of where that face is located,” Mr. Marra said. Continue reading “What did you say?”
Not long ago I heard a story on “Morning Edition,” the National Public Radio news show, on the order and identity that GPS and maps are now bringing to the Kenyan slum of Mathare (in Nairobi), and on the lives of a group of people there who have formed The Spatial Collective. Give it a listen here — but when you do, keep in mind Alfred Korzybski‘s (d. 1950) much-quoted statement that the map is not territory. Continue reading “The Map is the Identity”
Discourse sorts our world, as Craig Martin illustrated nicely in a post last week. Identity labels are an aspect of discourse, but they also operate in another way, beyond organizing people. Labels also push people to conform by presenting a normative sense of who they are/should be. Continue reading “When the Labels Don’t Fit”
National Public Radio in the U.S. has a well-known correspondent named Mandalit del Barco — recently (and humorously) voted the best name in public radio. Her name is so well known to NPR listeners that the guys at “Car Talk,” a call-in car repair show, parody it — among the many other fictitious people who staff their show — in their closing credits, thanking their “inventory manager, Mandalit del Barcode.”
But what I find interesting is how she says her own name and what it says about our commonsense view of language and identity. Continue reading “What’s in a Name?”
The 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.