“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.””

Mystifying and Making Farmers

In “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” — an essay excerpted from a longer work only recently available in English, On the Reproduction of Capitalism — Althusser offers a definition of ideology: “Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence.” On this definition — and contrary to classic Marxist approaches — ideology is not an imaginary (i.e., false) depiction of our real conditions of existence. Rather, ideology is the set of processes by which we imagine ourselves into our real conditions of existence.

Consider, for instance, the depiction of farms in children’s toys in the images below.

Image result for farm puzzle Continue reading “Mystifying and Making Farmers”

#YouAintNoMuslimBruv

Picture 10Are you following the reactions online to the knife attack on the London Tube (now classed by authorities there as a terrorist attack)? Specially this part:

Picture 9

As Baldwin phrases it in a series of tweets, the reaction demonstrates “the power of operational acts of identification,” inasmuch as “it defines Islam, defines London, defines Britons… draws a multi-dimensional line.”

Indeed — after all, interpellation presupposes exterpellation, doesn’t it? For to be hailed in some fashions amounts to being cast out. As is happening here.

Take Baldwin’s advice and follow the hashtag to see the debate as it unfolds.

Look How Tall You Are!

Picture1The ease with which identity is presumed to be an inner trait projected outward is pretty easy to document, which makes critiquing it something less than a challenge. For example, I thought about writing a post on the new film “Inside Out” and the popular folk understanding of identity as being an internal quality only subsequently expressed outwardly, such that the social interaction is the effect of a prior and private sentiments.

But that just seemed too easy.

And, besides, the film seems kind’a fun. Continue reading “Look How Tall You Are!”

Only What’s on the Menu

fiveeasypiecesFor a long time my wife and I worked at different universities, in different U.S. states, and it required some long distance driving when we got together, which in turn required coffee. So I’d often stop into a McDonald’s while on the drive, pick up a cup and maybe some food, and then get right back on the interstate, to save time. Since I knew it was “to go,” I’d usually start off my order by saying, “Now, this is to go…,” but I always found that after I finished ordering — “Yes, of course: supersize that!” — they’d always ask,

“Is that for here or to go?”

It was as if they hadn’t even heard me answer that question right from the start. Continue reading “Only What’s on the Menu”

Identifying Identity with Merinda Simmons

“Identifying Identity” offers a series of responses from members of Culture on the Edge to the following claim made by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg:

zuckerberg blurb

When I signed up for a Facebook account (I held out for a while, not really understanding the potential for something called a “social network” that combined two things to which I’m not particularly suited: technology and, well, social networking), I remember someone telling me in an attempt to explain the difference between how one presents oneself on Facebook vs. Myspace, “Facebook is like a posed photo. Myspace is more like a candid snapshot.” My friend was trying to help me get a sense of the format and layout of the two sites, how they would present the information and images I post to the cyberworld around me. His ultimate point in response to my privacy paranoias? Sure I had control, but I didn’t have control. I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since the controversy over Facebook’s “real-name policy” flared up. Continue reading “Identifying Identity with Merinda Simmons”

The Situational Self

businessmeetingThere was an interesting story on the radio the other day — looking at language (the so-called function or filler words (e.g., pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, auxiliary verbs, etc.) in distinction from content words, i.e., the vs. school) as a way to understand identity. Continue reading “The Situational Self”

“And You Shall Call His Name Jesus”

MessiahWhat’s in a name? Well apparently a whole lot according to one judge in Eastern, Tennessee, Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew, who not too long ago, ruled (while the parents were in court for not being able to agree on the child’s last name) that a 7-month old baby boy named Messiah, name be changed to “Martin,” arguing that only one person is deserving of such a name and “that one person is Jesus Christ.” The mother of the child, Jaleesa Martin, is appealing the decision. Continue reading ““And You Shall Call His Name Jesus””

Getting Away With Murder

ThenNowA recent news story has many, especially those in academia, buzzing and debating. Some of the (sensationalist) headlines read:

1)     James St. James, Millikin University Prof Revealed To Have Killed His Family 46 Years Ago, Keeping Job

2)     University Prof Keeps Job After Newspaper Reveals Shocking Secret

The first sentence of the first story included just the right recipe of words for juxtaposing St. James’s identity over and against his past and present, it reads, “…connected the dots between the 61-year-old’s peaceful life as an academic and his violent past as Jim Wolcott, known murderer.” A journalist from the Georgetown Advocate even had the opportunity to sit down with the St. James, at a bar, and interview him. Continue reading “Getting Away With Murder”