A Good Fake or a Bad Fake?

Three pictures of Jesus depicted in different ways

You will likely remember the (somewhat) recent restoration of Ecce Homo in Spain that resulted in a rather different representation of Jesus in the newly finished product. It quickly became a meme and has since been circulated widely on the internet. It came to mind after seeing this following video about art restoration. Take a look:

The video takes us through the process of the restoration of Mother Mary to demonstrate the ways in which art is maintained to last. But as I was watching the video, I began to wonder when restorations are considered to be good and necessary and when they are considered to be destructive. As shown in the video, much care is taken with the restoration process — every detail attended to with great care. While the finished restoration of Mother Mary is, to the casual observer, far more similar than that of Ecce Homo to the worn image we see in the beginning of the video, are the restorations of the two all that different, practically speaking? Continue reading “A Good Fake or a Bad Fake?”

The Utility of the Familiar and the Strange

An image of the aftermath of a bad storm

I assume you’ve heard the news of the two major hurricanes (and the damage they caused) that recently came ashore in the US — the first hitting the shores of southern Texas and then the other (this past weekend, just over a week after Texas was hit), going up the full length of Florida.

During the commentaries on these two events — whether by the media, politicians, or people who lived through them — I found it interesting how comparative analysis was deployed to make sense of the events.

Or, better put, to figure out what to do in the face of them. Continue reading “The Utility of the Familiar and the Strange”

What Came First, the Difference or the Similarity? Part 2

Picture 4Yesterday, in Part 1, I wrote about some of the conceptual problems that I find in a recent Hufftington Post article on the ironic similarities between two sets of devotional rituals, said to be shared by Hindus and Buddhists in Sri Lanka, and the way — again, according to the article, and also the site on which it is based — that this commonality might provide a basis to overcome perceived difference and conflict.

But there’s more to talk about at the site (created by, according to the Huff Post article, a Sri Lankan-based, University of Chicago trained anthropologist). For instance, its Intro page opens as follows: Continue reading “What Came First, the Difference or the Similarity? Part 2”

Behind the Scenes: A Conversation on “Code Switching”


Back in late June 2013, three members of Culture on the Edge had a conversation on Facebook about the category “code switching” (nicely exemplified in the above Key & Peele skit, featuring Luther, President Obama’s “anger translator” [watch it below]), a conversation that later led to two blog posts on our site, referencing this conversation (here and here) and, ultimately, to Monica Miller conceiving of a workshop at Lehigh University, funded by a Collaborative Research Grant from its The Humanities Center — an opportunity that will involve Lehigh faculty members, James Peterson, Associate Professor of English and Director of Africana Studies, Jackie Krasas, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Sociology and Director of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, along with three of her Edge colleagues: Merinda Simmons, Leslie Dorrough Smith, and Vaia Touna — all of whom work on identity and language, but in very different domains and historical periods.

We hope that the following conversation — spruced up a bit for public consumption — helps to set the stage for some of the early thinking that may be in the background of the workshop, which takes place in April 2014 (more news on that coming soon).

6/29, 4:45pm
Russell McCutcheon
Ok, I have a query: it strikes me that, despite how many use it, “code switching” is a profoundly imperial category, one that perpetuates certain notions of race (when it is applied to studying some instances of African American English), while seemingly only describing them, yet no one realizes it.

What do you think? Continue reading “Behind the Scenes: A Conversation on “Code Switching””

Do This, Don’t Do That

no parkingTwo days ago, and then again yesterday, I wrote a couple of related posts on the way that, despite how cutting edge they may seem, many approaches to identity presuppose that classification systems merely manage pre-existing material. Given that I understand it rather differently — seeing, instead, contingent but authorized grids as the way that we create that sense of place and time that we call identity (also known as significance or relationships of similarity and difference) — most approaches strike me as conservative and problematic inasmuch as they fail to historicize the identity they purport to study, i.e., they fail to examine contingent identification practices (also known as those very same systems and grids that we create, authorize, contest, and otherwise just manage) and, in so doing, they merely naturalize their products, as if we all just know where we are on the globe without that fairly recent invention that we call longitude and latitude. Continue reading “Do This, Don’t Do That”

To the Left, To the Left

Economy boarding at an airportEvery time I fly I get a kick out of seeing the lengths to which the airlines go to create the impression among passengers that their (sometimes significantly) higher fees have consequence that matters (other than generating more profit for the airline, of course). Example: no longer do just the first class passengers board early but so do a host of variously privileged, hierarchically-arranged sub-categories that previously never existed, each getting their little perk in exchange for their higher fees, customer loyalty, or using the airline’s own credit card to book the flight: Platinum Club Members step up after those in First Class, then (in a ranking system Plato would be envious of) Gold Card Members and Silver Star Frequent Flyers have their turn. In fact, I await the day when the airlines not only dice up their customers to such an extent that repeat flyers are also awarded with Bronze, Copper, and maybe even Tin and Oxidized Iron identities but when they start mining the vocabulary of precious gemstones for yet more identifiers of dwindling status — maybe Emerald, Amethyst, or Cubic Zirconia club members, perhaps? Continue reading “To the Left, To the Left”