“I Am Neil deGrasse Tyson. Call Me That”

Neil deGrasse Tyson Howard UniversityWhen discussions of identification and labels note the complexity of labels and complicate the “strong cultural associations” that such labels often convey, I feel like cheering. So I was excited when my brother sent me a link to a nuanced NPR blogpost, “What if Atheists Were Defined by Their Actions?” by Tania Lombrozo. A professor of psychology, Lombrozo writes about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s rejection of the label atheist because he does not conform to the image and actions that people, including atheists and theists, associate with that label. Tyson discussed his views in an interview for the Rationally Speaking podcast. At 5:27, for example, Tyson succinctly highlights the problem of cultural associations, asserting, “Labels are intellectually lazy ways of presuming that you know more about someone that you have actually learned.” Continue reading ““I Am Neil deGrasse Tyson. Call Me That””

Who Are You? I am/am not a McCutcheonite

a line of people wearing face masks

Who Are You?” is an ongoing series that 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.

What’s at stake in claiming an academic influence or identity, or in asserting another scholar’s influence or identity? I’ve been accused of being a McCutcheonite before. What precisely is at stake in such an accusation? Why is it, for instance, an accusation rather than a form of praise? With this alleged identity claim, what is being accomplished? Continue reading “Who Are You? I am/am not a McCutcheonite”

Islam, Islamic, Islamist

9/11 Memorial MuseumRecently, Omid Safi, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill, advanced several points about the identifying labels commonly used in memorialization, including the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and news accounts. He responds to one question posed to him about critiques of labels, “What should we call it when acts of terrorism are committed by Muslims?” by explaining his concern with the application of the “Islamic terrorist” label, Continue reading “Islam, Islamic, Islamist”

“The Jewish People”

Jueus_ultraortodoxes_satmar_a_brooklyn-2A meme circulating on Facebook recently came from the website JewsNews, which identifies its objective as “bringing truthful news to the world” for its readers, whom it identifies as primarily “Jews and supporters of Israel”. The meme entitled “Let’s Sum Up The Jewish People In A Nutshell” repeated a photo of a presumably Orthodox Jewish man with captions like the following: “Religion doesn’t allow pork . . . doesn’t try to make it illegal,” “Cashier says ‘Merry Christmas’ . . . doesn’t complain about a ‘War on Hanukkah,” and “Thinks differently than you . . . doesn’t tell you you’re going to hell.” I certainly read those captions as an effort to critique particular expressions among some Christians in the United States, presenting “The Jewish People” as more inclusive and respecting. Continue reading ““The Jewish People””