“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”
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?””
“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”
A recurring assertion of the contributors to this blog, as evidenced in the quote on the banner from Jean-Francois Bayart, is that identity is not something inherent or static. Identity is constructed, malleable, temporal. The implications of this assertion are many, and the reality of violence, both recent and past, makes those implications even more significant. Continue reading “The Violence of Constructed Identities”
Have you seen The Race Card Project online? It is a site that solicits your six words about race, such as:
Those interested in considering popular understandings of this one identity domain may find this website to be a rich resource–such as the above sample which presupposes the common notion of a deeper, stable subjectivity that transcends identifiers.