“It becomes an identity. A part of you.”

Factory worker's worn hands

The New York Times published an interesting article yesterday — focusing on US factory worker, Shannon Mulcahy,  someone who is caught up in the effects of globalization (aka US jobs moving to Mexico).

I’ll leave it to you to read it, but among the many things that caught my eye was that line, quoted above, in my title. Continue reading ““It becomes an identity. A part of you.””

“No Thanks; I’m Good.”

In the Fall of 1980 I was traveling home by bus from my first year as an undergrad, going for a long weekend visit. I was attending Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario, partway between Montreal and Toronto, so I changed buses in Toronto to make it home, not far from Niagara Falls.

It was the first time I’d been in the Toronto bus terminal; built in 1931, it consisted of an interior waiting area, where you bought tickets and coffee from a machine, and, as per the above photo, a large outer area where buses pulled in and people lined up.

It was Thanksgiving and, as I recall, there was a throng of people, jostling either to get into lines or through them to yet other lines of their own, all waiting for their ride on a chilly Fall night. Before going away to university I’d lived in a small town — about 21,000 people back then — so being in the big city, on my own, in a crowded bus terminal late at night, was a new experience for me. Continue reading ““No Thanks; I’m Good.””

The Politics of Activism: On Rhetoric and Power

By Andie Alexander

“So are you a political activist now?”

I’m not the kind of person who often posts on Facebook about politics. After all, I’m still a grad student hoping to get a job one day, and there’s no telling what sorts of ideas people could formulate about me based solely on my Facebook posts. With that always in the back of my mind, I tend to keep my posts mostly about the academic study of religion (well, that, and pictures of my dogs, obviously, because they’re adorable). However, over the past few weeks, I have been sharing significantly more news articles and reports on my Facebook page. In the wake of this exponential increase in the number of political articles and photos from the Denver Women’s March (see above) on my page, folks were somewhat surprised with my seemingly sudden interest in politics. So much so that some have even called me a political activist.

When others heard these comments about my newfound activism, some agreed in a positive way, while others maintained that I was not a political activist and that I was just sharing information. However, what struck me about these comments was not whether I really am/am not a political activist — to me that misses the point. Rather, I am more interested in this label or designation of “political activist.” For the more I thought about it, I realized that this identifier rarely has a positive connotation. Continue reading “The Politics of Activism: On Rhetoric and Power”

“… but it is us.”

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Today is the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks here in the US — in which tens of thousands of people lost someone directly near and intimately dear to them. Those interested in identity studies might see in such annual commemorations something to consider more closely, especially if interested how a sense of absence/Other is crucial for the development of a sense of presence/Self.

That’s why this interview, from earlier today, caught my ear — listen to it via the embed below — especially Howard Lutnick‘s closing, seemingly contradictory, but revealing words:

it’s a part of us, but it doesn’t define us…, but it is us.

Clash of Classifications

thebestHave you seen this video, about giving a genetic test for ancestry/origins to a group of people who each seem to think they’re pure blood?

Sure, it’s basically an ad for a Copenhagen-based travel website, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

See what you think. Continue reading “Clash of Classifications”

Do Bathrooms Matter? Revisiting “The Bathroom Problem”

Target Rainbow Bullseye

On the heels of North Carolina’s recent decision to require transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond to their identified sex at birth, Target has just released a new policy indicating that transgender people may use restrooms in its stores that correspond to their present gender identity. While this initiative has received strong support from many corners, it is also not without controversy; most notably, the American Family Assocation (AFA) has called for a boycott of Target on the grounds that this policy “endangers women and children by allowing men to frequent women’s facilities.”

With these claims in mind, there is some importance to my inquiry in doing a bit of fact-checking. As the evidence suggests, transgender people are no more likely to be sexual predators than anyone else, and yet as a group they experience disproportionately higher levels of discrimination and harassment in public venues (and in bathrooms, in particular). Moreover, in response to those who claim that Target’s policy will invite sexual predators of all gender identities into bathrooms, the data indicates that people are no more likely to be attacked in a bathroom than anywhere else, rendering most of the safety arguments relatively void. Continue reading “Do Bathrooms Matter? Revisiting “The Bathroom Problem””

Competing Discourses on Life and Death

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According to this news story from a few years ago, a “living” man from Ohio was legally ruled “dead”:

A US man declared dead after he disappeared nearly three decades ago cannot now be declared officially alive, though he has returned home and is in good health, a judge has ruled.

Donald Miller of Ohio left behind a wife, two children and significant debt when he fled his home in 1986.

He was declared legally dead in 1994, then re-emerged in 2005 and attempted to apply for a driving license.

A judge this week found death rulings cannot be overturned after three years.

Judge Allan Davis handed down the ruling in Hancock County, Ohio, probate court on Monday, calling it a “strange, strange situation”, according to media reports.

“We’ve got the obvious here. A man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health,” he said, finding that he was prevented by state law from declaring Mr Miller legally alive.

“I don’t know where that leaves you, but you’re still deceased as far as the law is concerned.”

What we have seems to be a case of competing discourses. If this man went to the hospital, it seems unlikely that the doctors would direct him to the morgue. On the other hand, from the court’s perspective he is dead and thus not eligible to get a driver’s license. Continue reading “Competing Discourses on Life and Death”

Who We Truly Are?

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Did you catch this spoken word piece, by rapper Prince Ea, that was making the rounds online a couple moths ago? (It’s apparent support for the notion of being post-racial received its share of criticism, by the way.) Continue reading “Who We Truly Are?”

Pleasantville and Social Reproduction

This post originally appeared on the Practicum blog.

In Religion & Society—my introductory religious studies course — I regularly use the 1998 comedy Pleasantville to engage in a discussion about how we’re socialized to actively seek conformity to the existing social order. The film is about two teens — David, played by Tobey Maguire, and Jennifer, played by Reese Witherspoon—who are magically transported from the 1990s into a 1950s sitcom; they immediately begin to chafe under the social expectations of small town life. As they start deviating from the social norms of the fictional sitcom world (and encourage others to do so as well), they disrupt the life of the entire town. (If you haven’t seen it, the trailer is below. Note: there are spoilers further down.) Continue reading “Pleasantville and Social Reproduction”

Reason to Believe

Picture 8Did you catch the recent interview with Tom Jones, on National Public Radio? He’s 75 now and still going strong. He has an autobiography out and a new album and was reflecting, in the interview, on how, with age, he’s now able to sing certain songs with more credibility than when he was younger. Continue reading “Reason to Believe”