Handcuffed to Authority

Residents of Eastern Pennsylvania can sleep a bit easier now that Eric Matthew Frein was apprehended. Frein is accused of murdering Pennsylvania State Police Corporal Bryon K. Dickson and the attempted murder of another officer, Alex Douglass. Authorities scoured the Pocono Mountains looking for this self-professed survivalist for forty-eight days. On October 30, U. S. Marshalls found Frein near an abandoned airfield, handcuffed him, and placed him in a police cruiser. The man with a hatred for authority had been captured.

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(Photo: AP/Jason Farmer, The Scranton Times & Tribune) USA Today

As it turns out, the handcuffs placed on the fugitive once belonged to Corporal Dickson, as did the cruiser used to transport Frein. According to Commissioner Frank Noonan, authorities “agreed that if we had the opportunity, then it would be fitting to use Corporal Dickson’s handcuffs…when we caught him.” At first glance, placing Dickson’s handcuffs on Frein is, indeed, a fitting response to the fear that has gripped the area. Symbolically, it represents the restoration of justice and safety seemingly safeguarded by the authority of law enforcement – with an added symbolic retribution forced upon the criminal. Perhaps, this handcuff story evokes a retributive sort of solidarity enacted as Dickson lives on in the form of his handcuffs now binding the hands of his alleged killer. But the story might also reveal our particular bondage to a certain vision of authority and justice as natural. Continue reading “Handcuffed to Authority”

The Fountain of Youth

Forever 21Photo credit: thevalueengineers.com

If you’ve traveled to an American shopping mall of any size, chances are good that you’ve happened across a store called “Forever 21,” which sells clothing and accessories geared towards (as the name suggests) the younger woman – or at least someone who wishes to look like how the store indicates a younger woman should appear. Continue reading “The Fountain of Youth”

“New Books on the Edge” with Russell T. McCutcheon

9781781790779 (1)Entanglements: Marking Place in the Field of Religion

You’ve contributed much to the discourse on theory and method in the academic study of religion over the years – can you take us behind the scenes with “why” this book now, and to what sorts of questions and/or critiques in the field you’re responding to in your push to show the manner in which the “academic” study of religion rightfully constitutes primary research on “real” religions?

For whatever reason, over the years some of my work has prompted replies from other scholars—sometimes substantive, sometimes dismissive or, on occasion, even angry. So I’ve had the luxury of writing responses or rejoinders on a number of occasions, but I’ve never done anything with these pieces—not that I ought to, but they tend to represent a part of the field that, I think, often goes unnoticed. For a variety of reasons I’ve turned into an essayist and I tend to gather up pieces periodically and then publish them as a collection—a genre I certainly didn’t invent and one that is not so distinct from a monograph as some might wish to think—and so the idea of collecting these responses, and then writing new introductions to each, contextualizing the occasion etc., seeing it all as an example of scholarly discourse at work, rather than a finished product, occurred to me about a year or so ago. Continue reading ““New Books on the Edge” with Russell T. McCutcheon”

Know Thyself

Picture 4Retronaut recently posted a little Roman Catholic devotional booklet from 1927, “Examination of Conscience for Boys and Girls” — a booklet on identifying sins, “especially adapted for the age and circumstances of the average boy or girl in grade school.” Hunting around the web you can find mention of the publishing house begun in 1913, in St. Louis, that produced it (and a variety of its other such pamphlets, such as this one form the 1940s on the dangers of divorce [PDF]) — known as “The Queen’s Work,” and also learn that this popular pre-Vatican II children’s booklet went through at least 29 printings by the early 1950s. Continue reading “Know Thyself”