The other day I was cruising around the web reading old New York Times pieces and came across one entitled “Does Religion Oppress Women.” As with many things on the web (e.g., the banana slicer for sale at amazom.com), the comments section is the best part. For example:
kaybee’s comment stood out for me because it nicely represents a commonplace strategy — a strategy at home within the academy no less than in comments on the web — of positing a pristine originary moment that, once expressed or shared, is only later corrupted and polluted. It’s a model not unlike the telephone game (problematically known as “Chinese whispers” earlier on), which judges the contemporary against the pure source, and one that we find in the U.S. supreme court (when a justices measure current behaviors by the standard of what the writers of the Constitution intended) as well as in the study of etymology itself (whose own etymology denotes studying the true meaning of a word). Continue reading “Why, When I was a Kid…”
– Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference (1978), p. 285
On Elvis Costello’s first season of “Spectacle” (2008) there was an interesting moment in his interview with James Taylor, in which the sort of model with which we work here at Culture on the Edge was explored briefly…
Elvis Costello: At times, I know I have a mythic map of my father’s hometown in my head, in which I move characters around in songs. Is it always a real Carolina that you’re speaking of in songs? Or is it sort of a place where longing goes? Is it an imagined place?
James Taylor: I think that that’s a very good way of describing it. It’s the sort of context of my longing, yeah. Continue reading ““Only Humans Can Really Get Lost…””
So opens Roland Barthes’ little essay — well known to some, of course — in his collection, Mythologies (read the full essay here). Judging by a recent news story, it turns out that he was right: that the ordinary is continually dressed up as extraordinary and that, at every turn, we make our worlds meaningful by crafting History into Necessity, as he famously phrases it. For the headline of the story, posted here, reads:
And voila, Einstein’s brain is, in the Barthean sense, a myth. Continue reading “It’s All Ordinary”
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”
George Washington’s Sacred Fire—in which Peter A. Lillback argues that “founding father” George Washington was a Christian and not a deist—garnered a great deal of media attention when first published in 2006. On amazon.com the book currently enjoys 165 user reviews, from readers asserting that the book is “awesome” and “indispencible” [sic] to readers asserting that the book is “illegitimate,” “junk,” and “propaganda.” Why does it matter if George Washington was a deist or a Christian? What’s at stake in the application of one of these two labels onto a figure long dead? Continue reading “The Politics of Choice”
Seeing Vaia Touna‘s recent post, on the creation of her own Greek identity, made me think about my own knowledge of Greece.
I was born in 1961, the youngest of four (the oldest of whom was born immediately after the end of Word War II), so that puts me at the tail end of the so-called baby boom. Television predated me, of course, but I was a member of the first generation weaned on it; so there’s a good chance that it was on television, and specifically in cartoons, where people like me came across the things that later turned out to be so much more complicated. Continue reading “The Mighty Hercules”
Some Thanksgiving thoughts for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Despite various corrections and critiques (e.g., here and here), schoolchildren across the U.S. often learn and even reenact the story of Pilgrims and Native Americans joining together for a meal to celebrate the first harvest for the Pilgrims. When considered from the perspective of the study of processes of identification, the reenactment of this origin story perpetuates the position of dominant groups, despite the narrative of cooperation built into the origin story. Continue reading “Perpetual Pilgrims and Indians”
(Click to enlarge)
Andie Alexander, Culture on the Edge’s Curator, has posted once again on the Grad Blog for the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama on how present interests drive historical narratives.
Take a look.