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!”

“I Was an Orphan. I Grew Up in Pennsylvania…”

Picture 21Tonight is the series end to Mad Men, the story of the early years of Madison Avenue ad men (and women). When last we saw him, the protagonist, Don, had given away his car to a young scam artist, offering him a new start, and was seated alone at a bus stop, his belongings in a big paper sack. His ex-wife, Betty, had been diagnosed with lung cancer but was going back to school anyway. His onetime boss and then partner, Roger, was playing an electric organ in their freshly vacated offices while Peggy, once a secretary but now an integral part of the creative team, had rollerskated her way into a new found self-confidence and a new office, armed with some erotic Japanese art.

peggy Continue reading ““I Was an Orphan. I Grew Up in Pennsylvania…””

On the Demonization of Violent Resistance

Citizens lining up to protect Baltimore police.
Citizens lining up to protect Baltimore police.

This is the first of two posts from the Edge on what is currently happening in Baltimore…

The recent protests in Baltimore have gained widespread media attention in the US, especially the level of violence to which the protesters have risen. It seems that both whites and African Americans are lamenting the actions of the violent protesters. One young African American man in Baltimore took to YouTube with this commentary, ending up on the front page of Reddit: Continue reading “On the Demonization of Violent Resistance”

About That Knife

Knife

Recently, I had a student come by during my office hours. Upon entering, one of the first things he said was something like “Whoa, Dr. Smith – I wouldn’t have thought that you’d have a knife!”

To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what he was talking about. Then I remembered that I have an old knife hanging in a shadowbox frame on my office wall that I use as an art piece (it’s got some very interesting markings). Frankly, I’d never made much of it, except that it didn’t make the aesthetic cut at my house.  In the hierarchy of interior design to which I ascribe, that means that my office became its new home. Continue reading “About That Knife”

Changing Narratives, Changing Facts

Picture 5John Douglas, a former FBI agent, is now a well-known criminal profiler, and he was among the people involved in the effort to free three men who were convicted when they were teenagers, in Arkansas in the mid-1990s, of the brutal murder of three young boys. In the recent documentary on the case, “West of Memphis” (2012), he’s also among the people interviewed, to help shed light on an old case whose outcome was changed by new DNA testing methods. Continue reading “Changing Narratives, Changing Facts”

Who Are You? I’m a Miser

George_c_scott_as_scrooge

 “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.

Well, I prefer the adjectives thrifty or sensible, actually, but not everyone agrees. When people observe my spending habits, such as infrequently eating at restaurants and preferring to shop at thrift stores, some may decide that the negative connotation of the classic images of Ebeneezer Scrooge and labels like tightwad and penny-pincher are appropriate. Even with an agreed-upon characteristic, the tension between self-selected labels and ascribed identities remains, with various normative values embedded within those selections. Continue reading “Who Are You? I’m a Miser”

The Politics of Choice

gw

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”

The Luxury of Nuance

winter 1The first time I came to Edmonton, Canada, was in March of 2010, in order to give a paper at a conference, and, since I had applied for a Ph.D. there, to also see the city—not knowing though whether I was yet accepted at the program or not. That was the first time I had been so far north and the only thing I knew for sure was that Canada is cold (that the temperature could get as low as -30C (-22F) was beyond what my imagination could grasp). Continue reading “The Luxury of Nuance”

Meaningless Surveys: The Faulty Mathematics of the Nones

CE Huffpo headerCulture on the Edge’s Monica Miller and Steven Ramey co-authored the following post,
published originally at the Huffington Post on November 7, 2013.

People unaffiliated with a religion, commonly grouped as the ‘Nones’, are all the rage right now and have beckoned responses from faith leaders to philosophers and scholars of religion. Common among such responses is an unwavering and uncritical belief in the statistical reality of this group; very few, in our opinion, have questioned how this group came to exist in the laboratory of statistical analysis and myopic survey questions. Most recently, a series on the New York Times Room for Debate page featured references to the Nones and the similar Pew report on the status of Judaism in America. However, the methodological basis for all of this excitement is actually quite thin. Continue reading “Meaningless Surveys: The Faulty Mathematics of the Nones”