On the Tyranny of Individualism: MAGA boy, Media, and the Drum

In the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, “boy, that escalated quickly.”

I began writing this blog post the day after a video featuring Covington high school students taunting a Native American man went viral. When I returned to the piece a few days later, the story had blown up like few that I can recall in recent memory. The initial narrative, which was clipped from a 2-hour video, posted on Twitter, and seized upon by the press, created the perception that the high school boys had surrounded Nathan Philips (e.g., see this NYT piece), an Omaha elder and activist, sparking outrage across the media spectrum. At the center of all this was the image of a young man in a MAGA hat (pictured below) starring smugly at Philips as he played a drum song (see Leonard Peltier’s explanation of the song here) . Continue reading “On the Tyranny of Individualism: MAGA boy, Media, and the Drum”

The Moves We Make

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Prompted by the discussion surrounding Rachel Dolezal’s NAACP resignation, this series of posts is about how and when we take performativity seriously… and when it bows to interests in historical or experiential specificity.

If I’m counting, I’ve read exactly one smart thing about Rachel Dolezal on the internet—Adolph Reed Jr.’s “From Jenner to Dolezal: One Trans Good, the Other Not So Much” (thanks, Craig Martin, for directing my attention to it). In the piece, Reed says, among other things, that the distinction between trans people’s “involuntary” decision and Dolezal’s “active choice” where self-identification is concerned “is mind-bogglingly wrong-headed, but it is at the same time thus deeply revealing of the contradictoriness and irrationality that undergird so much self-righteous identitarian twaddle.” But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to explain why I think we should still even be talking about Rachel Dolezal, right? Continue reading “The Moves We Make”

“New Books on the Edge” with Leslie Dorrough Smith

LS Book CoverRighteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America 

What sparked your initial interest in exploring what drives the “political power” of the New Christian Right (NCR) and Concerned Women for America (CWA)? How are such groups commonly approached and analyzed in scholarly discourse and the larger public imagination?

As with many scholars, I suppose, my interest in politically active conservative Christianity (a.k.a, the NCR) is at least somewhat autobiographical. I grew up in a social environment steeped in conservative evangelicalism, and so the claims made by these groups – namely, the valorization of the entire spectrum of conservative politics, including a religiously-rooted patriotism, traditional gender roles, and the superiority of the heterosexual, nuclear family – were not new to me.  In a very direct sense, then, my interest in these groups began when, as an undergraduate religious studies major, I was seeking to better understand the appeal of conservative evangelical ideas and their political impact. Continue reading ““New Books on the Edge” with Leslie Dorrough Smith”

Who Are You? I’m a Leg Crosser

madmensittingWho Are You?” asks members of Culture on the Edge to reflect
on one of their own many identities (whether national, gendered,
racial, familial, etc.), theorizing at the same time the self-
identification that they each chose to discuss.

Sometimes when students are in my office and I’m trying to draw their attention to the sometimes subtle ways in which we act ourselves into certain sorts of identities I’ll ask them to take a quick look at how we’re both sitting. There’s a good chance that I’m behind my desk, reclining a bit in my office chair, and seated like those guys above, and there’s an equally good chance that the student I’m talking to is not seated like this. And so drawing attention to how we’re both sitting — something that we’ve each done quite unselfconsciously, I’m sure — gives us a chance to think through identity as an empirically observable thing, as something we persuade ourselves and others that we have by repeatedly acting ourselves into it. Continue reading “Who Are You? I’m a Leg Crosser”

Trick or Trick?

photo (6) A recent occurrence of misrecognition reminded me of two Culture on the Edge blog posts written this past summer (see here and here) in which Russell McCutcheon wrote about what it might mean to see the ordinary as curious in one post and another on public conversations on the role of identity in the movie, The Lone Ranger. In the former post, McCutcheon asked a simple question underneath a picture of Baka people performing for Pope Benedict XVI as he departed for Angola, “who is wearing a costume?”

If we take seriously theories of performativity and the role of the discursive in processes of identification as forcefully articulated by thinkers such as Judith Butler, then we know that something like Halloween occurs every day where we un/consciously present who we are/aren’t/want to be to the social world in which we participate in. Continue reading “Trick or Trick?”

On the Spot with Leslie Dorrough Smith

“On the Spot” backs members of Culture on the Edge into a corner to talk about their backgrounds, their ongoing work, and what might be gained by an alternative understanding of how identity works.

leslieQ: Leslie, you have a book out soon that is on the way a certain rhetoric of chaos vs. order is used by some groups in the U.S. to organize themselves, by distinguishing their members from others, their preferences from others, and their values from others. Is that a fair (if general) description of your project? Could you tell us more?

A: Yes – this is a fairly unorthodox approach to a very mainstream subject.  The book, which is about the rhetoric of one Christian Right group, is entitled Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America (Oxford, 2014). Continue reading “On the Spot with Leslie Dorrough Smith”

On the Spot with Monica Miller

“On the Spot” backs members of Culture on the Edge into a corner to talk about their backgrounds, their ongoing work, and what might be gained by an alternative understanding of how identity works.

monicaQ: Identity and identification are words the members of Culture on the Edge are using to stand in for two different, and likely opposed, scholarly approaches to the study of who we see ourselves and others as being; whereas the first presumes a stable inner quality or sentiment only later projected outward into the public world, the latter starts with a series of public practices and social situations that are eventually interiorized. In your own research specialty – Hip Hop culture and rap music in particular, but also the wider field of the study of African American religion — can you illustrate the difference between these two approaches? Continue reading “On the Spot with Monica Miller”

“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””