Romance and Puke: A Story of Love

heart clouds

Lest the title of this post leads you to believe that I am about to recount the major details of my college love life, this is, rather, another tale of how the terms we use to define ourselves and our relationships operate as strategies rather than simple, obvious descriptions.  As an example of this, I often ask my students what it means to “be in love,” whereupon they usually talk of romance, giddiness, and a strong chemistry between two people.  But when I ask them how they think their parents might answer that same question, they often get uncomfortable – quickly – for it doesn’t take a room of eighteen year olds very long to figure out that their parents may actually behave in the ways that they were just indicating. Continue reading “Romance and Puke: A Story of Love”

Every New Beginning…

the-beginningThere’s a few pop songs that strike me as containing some great nuggets of social theory, and so they stick with me — such as a line about nostalgia from Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” (that I once blogged about here). Another is Semisonic‘s 1998 hit “Closing Time.”

Don’t know it? Give it a listen, below, while you’re reading. You’ll remember it. Continue reading “Every New Beginning…”

Keep Your Stick on the Ice

Picture 6Each New Year’s day, since 2008, two National Hockey League teams face-off — as they say — in an outdoor game that’s called the Winter Classic. This year, the first to include a Canadian team (another older but more infrequently played series, called The Heritage Classic, has pitted two Canadian teams against each other), was between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs won 3-2 in a shoot-out after the overtime sessions didn’t decide it. (Go Leafs.)

The thing that’s interesting about this game is the way that it quite successfully markets nostalgia, such as the custom-made vintage uniforms they all wear and the “old timers” game between long retired NHL players that’s also part of the weekend’s activities — a point nicely identified by a friend on Facebook during the game, who noted the wonderful contradiction between the old school “leather” look of the goalie pads and gloves but the modern high-tech helmets and visors the players were all still wearing. Continue reading “Keep Your Stick on the Ice”

In the Eye of the Beholder

edgemonkcell

A graduating senior in our Department recently wrote a very nice blog post, for our Department’s site, on how disappointed a friend of hers, whom she had met while traveling in India, was when discovering a Buddhist monk using a cell phone. (Read her blog post here.) I posted a link to the article on a Facebook group devoted to the History of Religions — a group that, despite being some people’s preferred technical name for our academic discipline, has attracted a diverse membership. Someone in the group, having read the post, soon commented on how a monk with a cell phone was evidence of decay in religions. Continue reading “In the Eye of the Beholder”

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”

Short-term Memory

1239448_10101716135896975_1920941713_nOkay, I’ll go for a 9/11 post…but I’ll make it quick.  I’m seeing a lot of images on Facebook like the one above, posted by friends of various political persuasions.  All these friends can appeal to what they have in common, after all–a unifying sense of patriotism and national identity. Continue reading “Short-term Memory”

On Nostalgia

“Indeed, it will be argued here that nostalgia is a distinctly modern word, an idea dependent on a way of worlding that is distinctive to modernity….”

Read more.

The Way We Were…?

good old days 3I’ve always been fascinated by those birthday cards that offer a little personalized nostalgia for yesteryear to our elderly loved ones who are able to tell us stories about “back in the day when…”  I’m talking specifically about the cards that you typically see in gas stations and Cracker Barrels, the ones that try to give a societal snapshot from the day someone was born.  They remind my father (born in 1942), for example, that the hit single on the day of his birth was Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” (it had recently overtaken “[I’ve Got a Gal in] Kalamazoo”) and that gas back then cost only 19 cents a gallon.  For that matter, the 19-cent gas would have fueled a new car that someone could buy for just over a thousand bucks.  And so on. Continue reading “The Way We Were…?”

Persons, Displaces, and Things

religionmigrationIn early September 2013 there’s a conference in Liverpool, hosted by the European Association for the Study of Religions (EASR) and the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR). The description of the event–entitled “Religion, Migration, and Mutation”–starts as follows:

conf description1 Continue reading “Persons, Displaces, and Things”