At the Painting’s Edge

uacampusOur campus has a new painting, hanging in the lobby of our main library, depicting the University of Alabama prior to the Civil War — near the end of which most of the campus was burned down by northern troops passing through the city. But here, in this roughly 6 by 14 foot vibrant painting, we see the Rotunda brought back to life, as well as several other now missing buildings (only the remains exist today, such as a pile of debris that was once Franklin Hall that has come to be known as “the Mound“). Continue reading “At the Painting’s Edge”

Move Along Folks, Nothing to Explain Here

radicalsorjustrecruitsThe fear over what is now regularly termed Islamic radicalization is much in the news these days, what with so-called Jihadi John‘s identity being determined and yet more stories appearing in the news concerning young people apparently leaving North America or Europe to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS’s fight against what I guess we might as well just call the West.

So the problem that we’re all preoccupied with is trying to understand why anyone would willingly wish to join such groups — there must be an explanation to account for it.

What kind of person would do such a thing? Continue reading “Move Along Folks, Nothing to Explain Here”

#falsechoice

memoriexOn Twitter earlier today it occurred to me that the old commercial advertizing Memorex brand cassette tapes (did I just date myself?) is an apt way to get at the problem of people who try to distinguish between, on the one hand, representation — an activity acknowledged to be lodged within the problems of discourse — and actual or authentic lived experience, on the other. Continue reading “#falsechoice”

Identifying Identity with Monica Miller

“Identifying Identity” offers a series of responses from members of Culture on the Edge to the following claim made by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg:

zuckerberg blurb

Zimmer’s critique of Zuckerberg’s disingenuous claim that somehow having more than one identity equates to a lack of integrity is spot on. In fact, Zuckerberg’s claim is laughable, for we analysts know all too well that identities are never singular nor static – rather – always fluid over time and space and most importantly perhaps, they are co-constitutive and contingent, never of their own complete making. This thinking, about identity and identities is well marked by the work we do here at The Edge insofar as we take seriously Bayart’s assertion that “there is no such thing as identity, only operational acts of identification.” With that in mind, and pushing further the constructed nature of and the tactics and strategies that make identities possible, the social actor does not have complete control over how their identities are made – and more so – how such identities are read and represented, especially as they are mediated technologically in and through online formats like social media. Continue reading “Identifying Identity with Monica Miller”

“Only Humans Can Really Get Lost…”

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On Elvis Costello’s first season of “Spectacle” (2008) there was an interesting moment in his interview with James Taylor, in which the sort of model with which we work here at Culture on the Edge was explored briefly…

Elvis Costello: At times, I know I have a mythic map of my father’s hometown in my head, in which I move characters around in songs. Is it always a real Carolina that you’re speaking of in songs? Or is it sort of a place where longing goes? Is it an imagined place?

James Taylor: I think that that’s a very good way of describing it. It’s the sort of context of my longing, yeah. Continue reading ““Only Humans Can Really Get Lost…””

“New Books on the Edge” with Russell T. McCutcheon

9781781790779 (1)Entanglements: Marking Place in the Field of Religion

You’ve contributed much to the discourse on theory and method in the academic study of religion over the years – can you take us behind the scenes with “why” this book now, and to what sorts of questions and/or critiques in the field you’re responding to in your push to show the manner in which the “academic” study of religion rightfully constitutes primary research on “real” religions?

For whatever reason, over the years some of my work has prompted replies from other scholars—sometimes substantive, sometimes dismissive or, on occasion, even angry. So I’ve had the luxury of writing responses or rejoinders on a number of occasions, but I’ve never done anything with these pieces—not that I ought to, but they tend to represent a part of the field that, I think, often goes unnoticed. For a variety of reasons I’ve turned into an essayist and I tend to gather up pieces periodically and then publish them as a collection—a genre I certainly didn’t invent and one that is not so distinct from a monograph as some might wish to think—and so the idea of collecting these responses, and then writing new introductions to each, contextualizing the occasion etc., seeing it all as an example of scholarly discourse at work, rather than a finished product, occurred to me about a year or so ago. Continue reading ““New Books on the Edge” with Russell T. McCutcheon”

Disciplining the Violent

buddhist monkMonks in Myanmar encouraging violence, while that image challenges common assumptions about those who identify as Buddhists, accounts of such events often actually reinforce those assumptions. On April 30 people identified as Buddhists burned mosques and homes of a minority group identified as Muslim, reportedly resulting in injuries and one death. A recent BBC account of this ongoing conflict in Myanmar reiterates the trope that Buddhists follow a non-violent tradition. The author, a fellow at Brasenose College of Oxford who has studied conflict in Sri Lanka, drew parallels with Sri Lanka to argue that political interests corrupted the ideal teachings of nonviolence and justified violent action to protect position and power. Continue reading “Disciplining the Violent”

How…?

lone ranger tonto first stillYou’ve probably heard about the controversies over Johnny Depp’s portrait of Tonto, in Gore Verbinski’s new film, “The Lone Ranger.” Although portraying a Comanche, the character’s “look” is based on a painting entitled “I am Crow” — and the artist is, yes, a white man (as is the the film’s director [of Polish descent], of course, as well as [to the best that I can figure] the Detroit radio men who first came up with “The Lone Ranger” back in 1932 [first broadcast in 1933]). But beyond that, there’s the general problem of how Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans continues to reproduce troublesome stereotypes, such as argued in Salon.com‘s recent article on the film: Continue reading “How…?”