Microbes and I

gut-bacteriaA radio report today was on the Human Microbiome Project, which (according to its own website), “is one of several international efforts designed to take advantage of metagenomic analysis to study human health.” What caught my ear in particular was when Lita Proctor, the director for the project, said: Continue reading “Microbes and I”

“Can I See Your ID?”

Pass-IDOver the past couple of years I’ve noticed a curious new practice in stores when I use my credit card: I often must produce another piece of identification to demonstrate that the credit card is mine. Continue reading ““Can I See Your ID?””

In Place/Out of Place

1002124_10152985753095487_1101120275_nAs I recall Bruce Lincoln remarking in Authority: Construction and Corrosion, if you want to see how systems of authority work, then you need to study them when they break down (as he did in the case of one of former President Reagan’s interrupted speeches); for we can’t usually see them when they’re functioning properly, since we take them for granted as part of the landscape. Continue reading “In Place/Out of Place”

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”

Shifting Identification Strategies

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The identifications people make are strategic and context specific, as this article by Gibler, Hutchison, and Miller suggests:

[I]nternational conflict exerts a strong influence on the likelihood and content of individual self-identification, but this effect varies with the type of conflict. Confirming nationalist theories of territorial salience, territorial conflict leads the majority of individuals in targeted countries to identify themselves as citizens of their country. However, individuals in countries that are initiating territorial disputes are more likely to self-identify as members of a particular ethnicity, which provides support for theories connecting domestic salience to ethnic politics.

Being attacked leads you to identify with the nation. But if your nation is the one doing the attacking, all of the sudden you’d rather make alternate identifications …

Why is a Praying Atheist Newsworthy?

This week, several media outlets (Washington Post and Huffington Post) have highlighted an atheist who advocates prayer. The man has blogged that when he started a twelve step program he began praying regularly to a being he created (without believing in the existence of a deity), which changed his life for the better. Last summer, I pondered a somewhat similar hypothetical scenario in which a self-identified atheist maintained a belief in god in order to illustrate, as my colleagues here at Culture on the Edge have been saying, that identifications are strategic, not intrinsic. That blog post received pushback from some friends asserting that atheists, by definition, cannot believe in god. Continue reading “Why is a Praying Atheist Newsworthy?”

Culture on the Edge Podcast

relstproj2During its working session in Chicago, in November 2012, the members of Culture on the Edge (pictured below) took some time to record a conversation on identity creation and its study, for The Religious Studies Project (RSP)–a series of podcasts created and maintained by UK grad students that is devoted to the work of scholars of religion from around the world.

Click here to listen to our conversation.

Apart from thanking RSP’s Christopher Cotter and David Robertson for their interest in our work, we would like to thank Andie Alexander, then a student in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama, for assisting with the technology, and also thank the Department for supporting the group.)

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