Building Broad Support (or the Appearance of it)

event_347A New Jersey fundraiser last weekend titled “Humanity United Against Terror” provides an excellent example of one of the tricks of building cooperation. The Republican Hindu Coalition organized the event that featured Bollywood stars and an address by Donald Trump. The event had a range of interesting incongruities, including signs suggesting that Trump would ease speed up immigration  and images depicting Hillary Clinton and Sonia Gandhi (leader of the Congress Party in India) as demonic. My focus, however, is the framing of the event, contrasting the title and general purpose to its content, which in large part served as a political rally for Trump’s campaign. Continue reading “Building Broad Support (or the Appearance of it)”

Making the Arbitrary Natural

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Despite the rhetoric about the Olympics bringing the world together peacefully to celebrate athletic achievement, the competition is oddly divided according to “their genitalia and the patch of land on which they were born” (as colleague Craig Martin put it on Facebook). We see some wonderful examples of international goodwill, certainly (some listed here), but the arbitrary divisions dominate, both through the flag-waving spectators in the stands and the daily medal counts according to nation in the media. Whether it is people in India cheering P.V. Sindhu, who reached the Badminton women’s individual finals last Friday, or people in the United States cheering for Simone Biles’ five medal performance in gymnastics, the division into nationalities takes on the appearance of being a natural description.

The organization of the Olympics, demonstrated from the Opening Ceremony Parade of Nations, and the media coverage that focuses on the nation’s athletes make the nation appear to be a natural division, an obvious identifier (a la Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities). We often cheer for people from our own country because their victory brings us status, even though we have little if anything in common with the athletes, potentially being from different regions, living within different social networks, holding different commitments, etc. Continue reading “Making the Arbitrary Natural”

We’re All From Someplace Else

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Have you been following the ongoing debate about whether Britain should stay in the European Union? There’s a referendum coming up (on June 23) and discussions of economic impact, should it leave or stay, are often cited.

But there’s also arguments based on immigration — whether pro or con. Continue reading “We’re All From Someplace Else”

Freedom Fighter or Prophet

Indian_freedom_fighter“Look! . . . Up in the sky. . . . It’s a bird. . . . It’s a plane. . . . No, it’s Superman!” When someone points out something in the distance, like an object flying through the sky, it can be hard to recognize just what it is. We attempt to name it, place it in a clear category, but sometimes our categories don’t fit, especially when working with complex societies, and the category that we attempt to force it into often influences what we actually see.

Arkotong Longkumer, in Reform, Identity and Narrative of Belonging (a 2010 book on the Heraka movement in northeast India), analyzes an intriguing community and movement that engaged politics, economics, social change, ritual shifts, and ethnicity, to name a few areas of interest. The context of the movement was the increasing imposition of British rule in the region in the early twentieth century, including the British encouragement of immigration to the area that disrupted the traditional migration cycle and the agricultural system that required it. The simultaneous opportunity for education and government jobs combined with the necessity of alternative forms of labor in the wake of declining agricultural production. All of this required a revision in ritual practices and social restrictions to reduce the expense of animal sacrifices and the limitations on mobility and individual independence from the community, as they adapted to the changing environment. The contexts also fostered interest in uniting different groups politically in opposition to, at times, the British and other communities. In fact, the image above of one of the leaders is entitled “Indian Freedom Fighter”. Continue reading “Freedom Fighter or Prophet”

Strategic Ideologies

(1882)_MAP_OF_THE_TRIBES_OF_INDIAPrompted 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.

Race, as many have pointed out for years, is not biological. This point raises questions about the basis on which it is determined. Is it ancestry, appearance, cultural practice, or something else? That complicated question has come to greater prominence in light of the media circus around Rachel Dolezal and her assertion of an African-American identification. While discussions of Dolezal often focus on the process of self-identification and strategic choices made in relation to that self-identification, I want to focus, instead, on the strategic nature of the act of ascribing identification to someone else. Continue reading “Strategic Ideologies”

Unspoken Nationalism

lossy-page1-763px-Patriotic_old_women_make_flags._Born_in_Hungary,_Galicia,_Russia,_Germany,_Rumania._Their_flag-making_instructor,_Rose_R_-_NARA_-_533657.tifMultiple cases of the shooting deaths of unarmed men (who often are African-American) in the streets of the United States at the hands of people who are supposedly working to protect others from violence (and who typically are not African-American) have generated important discussions about institutional racism, hatred, and the militarization of police. In “What White People Can Do About the Killing of Black Men in America,” an editor at the Huffington Post writes,

White Americans like me have to stop channel surfing all the outrageously bad news from around the world and focus on the death that is happening in our own cities to our fellow Americans.

Continue reading “Unspoken Nationalism”

Buying Nationalism, eh?

fridgeOn this Canada Day, we’d like to take moment and ensure that everyone knows the words to the Canadian national anthem — if only to get a free beer, should you ever come across one of these red refrigerators.

 

Identifying in Unexpected Places

payingforgasThe unrivaled success of the modern identifier that goes by the name of nationalism is that it is reproduced and thereby reinforced at countless, intertwined sites — I recently posted briefly on the World Cup as one such site but it’s hardly the only one. Continue reading “Identifying in Unexpected Places”

Go Team

Picture 5I was thinking of writing a post on the World Cup as an exercise in unbridled nationalism… Continue reading “Go Team”

Business as Usual

memorialdaysaleToday is Memorial Day in the U.S. — a federal holiday marking a time to remember the past sacrifices of members of the armed forces.

In many cases, of course, “sacrifice” is a euphemism for death.

But it’s also a day that marks blockbuster sales — “half-off tops and shorts!” Continue reading “Business as Usual”