“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.
When, back in early 2001, I got the job as Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama I was working at what was then called Southwest Missouri State University, in Springfield, MO, and I recall sending out an email to my friends and colleagues in North America and Europe, to let them know that I’d soon be moving. Many wrote back their congratulations, of course, but I noticed a curious thing: unlike my Canadian and European friends, many of my U.S. colleagues’ congratulations came with what I read as subtle qualifications, equivocations, maybe even an unwritten sigh or two. For, sooner or later, they’d write something like, “Alabama? Really?” or “Wow. Well, good luck.”
It seemed that while others had read the part about becoming a department chair or moving to a major state university, others couldn’t get past the part about moving to Alabama. Continue reading “Who Are You? I’m an Alabamian”
Did you ever see the classic comedy “Some Like it Hot?” (1959), in which Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis hide from the mob (and both fall in love with Marilyn Monroe), by impersonating members of an all-female band that’s on the road?
Question: when does code switching become cross-dressing?
You’ll learn more at Lehigh University when
the Edge comes to town next week.
“There’s an assumption … that a person’s race is fixed…” — so opens a report this morning, on National Public Radio, of controlled, empirical evidence to the contrary, indicating the manner in which social cues and assumptions of their significance (e.g., Have you been to prison? Did you die of liver failure due to alcohol?) prompt people to ascribe this or that identity, such as a race, to other people…, and even to themselves. Continue reading “Constitution by Description”
“Who 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.
Identities are weird things. Presumably, telling you my identity lets you draw up associations and predictions about me and my behavior based on that identity, as well as sympathies or antipathies, depending perhaps on whether or not you share the identity at hand. So here goes: I was a Wednesday baby. That’s right—I was born on a Wednesday. Crazy, right? I’m one of them. Continue reading “Who Are You? I’m Wednesday’s Child”
If you haven’t already heard, the latest news from FOX news correspondent Megyn Kelly is that Santa Claus must be a white man. Kelly’s remark was prompted by an article written by Slate journalist Aisha Harris, wherein Harris pointed out how Santa’s constant depiction as a white man is a particularly powerful and, to many children in particular, damaging example of white normativity. After speaking to a group of panelists about various facets of the issue, Kelly reassured the children of America that Santa (and Jesus, too) are white. How do we know these things? One of Kelly’s panelists remarked that Santa is based on none other than St. Nicholas, a white,Greek bishop. In a equally problematic characterization, Jesus’ whiteness was claimed as a self-evident fact of history. Continue reading “Santa, Jesus, and All Those Other White Guys: Why “Reality” is No Barrier to Identity”
I caught an interview on the radio this morning with Jacqueline Jones, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of a new book on “the myth of race.”
Give it a listen. Continue reading “Reports of the Myth of Race are Greatly Exaggerated”
“Race” is such a problematic, complex term, no? We use it as if it refers to some stable thing (like when we complete a government form) but as soon as we look at its use more closely we realize it is a vague designation for a variety that spans a limitless continuum with no clear internal boundaries. “Race” — as in “What race are you?” — is thus our way of creating the impression of managing what may in fact be unbridled human difference, as if it has nicely defined internal compartments.
Case in point: the fellow above — Alex Sugiura — was featured in a story recently (and another a little before that), on the increasingly mixed race nature of American culture. He’s from Brooklyn but, of course, that’s not where he’s really from, right? Continue reading ““No, Really, Where Are You From?””
Seen Monica Miller‘s latest BET post? Take a look…
“On the Spot” backs members of Culture on the Edge into a corner to talk about their backgrounds, their ongoing work, and what might be gained by an alternative understanding of how identity works.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your doctoral studies, since they were not carried out in the academic study of religion, yet that’s the field in which you now work as a professor. How was your training in the Department of English relevant to the work you now do and the classes you now teach?
A: I never expected to end up teaching in a Religious Studies department. But really, my studies in English overlap with the work I now do in a variety of ways. The strands of literary criticism that I found most interesting were ones that questioned the roles of authorship, text, and readership. The more literary theory I read, the more difficult it became for me to see “author” and “text”, for example, as two discrete categories. I remember the first time I read “The Death of the Author” by Roland Barthes—I was completely floored. And that was just the beginning! Continue reading “On the Spot with Merinda Simmons”