“It’s Not a Religion”

Picture 9The latest installment of the “religion” wars (i.e., over what gets to count as, and receive the social perks of, religion) comes to us from right in the middle of Tennessee. The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, whose construction began in the summer of 2010 after heated disputes over whether it should even be allowed to be built, is in the news again, with its hopes to add a cemetery to its property. Predictably, perhaps, local opponents are trying to stop it in court. Continue reading ““It’s Not a Religion””

No There There

fingerprintsSometime ago I realized that there was important theoretical work signaled by gerunds—verbs that masquerade as nouns; for instance, as I once phrased it, the advantage for a social theorist of the concept “social formation,” as opposed to, say, “social forces,” “society,” “group” or even “institution,” was that it “nicely represents not only the ongoing work of bringing an imagined social group into existence but also the sleight of hand in making it appear always to have existed.” So “social formation” could name a thing, of course, prefaced by an indefinite article, for example, but, simultaneously, it can also name the ongoing process whereby the supposed thing comes into being, repeatedly and continually. Singing a national anthem is therefore an event in the day and life of members of a social formation, yes, but at the same time it is a socially formative act, i.e., a repetitive act constitutive of the formation of a particular, shared idea of citizenship—one element of a never ending process of identifications we might awkwardly term citizenizing. Continue reading “No There There”