Who Are You? I’m an Alabamian

Picture 2Who 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”

Trickle-Down Social Change?

savannahnewsstoryThis is an interesting news story, for it prompts us to ask about what constitutes a social change that’s worth calling a change: opening up elite institutions to non-traditional or minority members or changing the conditions that require elite institutions in the first place? Continue reading “Trickle-Down Social Change?”

Oh, the Humanity…

edgedailyshowAs I tried to suggest in a post last week, concern over dehumanizing the people we study has long struck me as a pseudo-problem, i.e., a problem of scholars’ own making, inasmuch as I think that we worry about this only for those with whom we already agree, with whom we already share some affinity. In a word, the fact of the concern is an example of our own identification practice/interests up and running. For all others, we, as scholars, are likely in tacit agreement that we are not trying to convey or conserve their self-perceived meanings or some ethereal quality that they apparently share with us but, instead, trying to figure out how in the world they could even think or act in the way that they do (i.e., in such cases the people we study are a puzzle to be solved and not a pristine human value to be protected from the prying eyes of outsiders), given that their actions or beliefs are so patently odd or curious or wrong or unethical or illegal or immoral.

To us, that is…. Continue reading “Oh, the Humanity…”

There She Is…

Nina-Davuluri_2672797b

“[Nina Davuluri‘s] victory did inspire some disturbing posts on Twitter; people were upset that the honor was given to an Arab, which of course she is not. Supporters of the Miss American pageant were very upset themselves, and why shouldnt they be: all this racism was ruining their sexism.”

Peter Segal, host of National Public Radio’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” (listen here)

“She Fit That Profile”

colvinToday is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered during the now famous March on Washington. To mark that date, Culture on the Edge asks: Do you know who Claudette Colvin is?

For if we’re marking anniversaries, which are part of a discourse on origins, after all — anchoring the present as significant inasmuch as it is somehow related to an authoritative, annually commemorated past — then, given this blog’s critique of how we usually think about identity, there might be something interesting to learn by taking a moment today to look at how we today talk about that period in U.S. history that we now know as the civil rights movement. Or, more specifically, to ask how we pick our origins points and the anniversaries that we celebrate, and what these choices about the past have to say about who we think ourselves to be today? Continue reading ““She Fit That Profile””