“Guess Who?”: A Game of Differentiation

When I was a kid, “Guess Who?” was a very popular game with me and my friends at my after school program. It was always a pretty quick game, which had friends gathered around while waiting for their chance to play the winner. Perhaps you recall the game — two players, each choose a yellow card, which had the picture of one of the faces on the board, and take turns guessing which card the other person has. While each of the pictures has a name on it, players can only ask yes or no questions about physical appearance: hair color, hair style, age, etc. Continue reading ““Guess Who?”: A Game of Differentiation”

Now That The Ice Has Melted: Some Thoughts on the ALS Challenge

ALS challenge

As the frenzy of folks dumping ice water on their heads in the name of ALS research has now begun to fade, with them have gone the voices who were questioning the whole process. Those of you following most forms of social media know that the controversy surrounding the icy act was multifaceted, indeed.

There was debate on whether those who successfully completed the ritual were obligated to give money to the ALS foundation at all (for, at certain points, the challenge was portrayed by some as the “other” option to a monetary donation). There was also concern over whether such a flagrant waste of water actually created its own problem in the midst of one of the worst droughts that certain parts of the US (and indeed, the world) have ever seen. Countless others also asked what it means about the state of humanity when the way that a worthwhile organization manages to succeed in raising funds is by challenging people to do something so comparatively senseless. The following meme sums up many of these concerns: Continue reading “Now That The Ice Has Melted: Some Thoughts on the ALS Challenge”

Who Are You? I’m a Leg Crosser

madmensittingWho Are You?” 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.

Sometimes when students are in my office and I’m trying to draw their attention to the sometimes subtle ways in which we act ourselves into certain sorts of identities I’ll ask them to take a quick look at how we’re both sitting. There’s a good chance that I’m behind my desk, reclining a bit in my office chair, and seated like those guys above, and there’s an equally good chance that the student I’m talking to is not seated like this. And so drawing attention to how we’re both sitting — something that we’ve each done quite unselfconsciously, I’m sure — gives us a chance to think through identity as an empirically observable thing, as something we persuade ourselves and others that we have by repeatedly acting ourselves into it. Continue reading “Who Are You? I’m a Leg Crosser”

Trick or Trick?

photo (6) A recent occurrence of misrecognition reminded me of two Culture on the Edge blog posts written this past summer (see here and here) in which Russell McCutcheon wrote about what it might mean to see the ordinary as curious in one post and another on public conversations on the role of identity in the movie, The Lone Ranger. In the former post, McCutcheon asked a simple question underneath a picture of Baka people performing for Pope Benedict XVI as he departed for Angola, “who is wearing a costume?”

If we take seriously theories of performativity and the role of the discursive in processes of identification as forcefully articulated by thinkers such as Judith Butler, then we know that something like Halloween occurs every day where we un/consciously present who we are/aren’t/want to be to the social world in which we participate in. Continue reading “Trick or Trick?”

Religious “Expression”?

kumbh melaSome scholars of religion talk as if cultural stuff—icons, myths, rituals, practices, ideologies, discourses, etc.—allows practitioners to “express” themselves, their religious beliefs, or simply their “religion.” Other scholars talk as if the use of this cultural stuff has the effect of “constituting” (perhaps by “performing”) themselves, their religious beliefs, or their identity. Continue reading “Religious “Expression”?”