Acceptance and Exclusion

a drawing of St. Patricks's Day in America in 1926

An Imperial Wizard of a Virginia segment of the Ku Klux Klan asserted that his organization was Christian and not a hate organization. He further labeled some KKK members who have been guilty of using violence as “rogue” members and declared that the ideology to maintain white supremacy did not constitute hate. The media took notice (see here, here, and here). When Pope Francis or an Episcopalian asserts that they are Christian, such assertions are not generally newsworthy today (though in the1926 cartoon above, the Christian identification of Catholicism is questioned while the KKK is clearly Christian and American). One reason for this distinction is obvious; some of this leader’s assertions about the KKK diverge from typical characterizations of the group. Continue reading “Acceptance and Exclusion”

Who Are You? I’m a Vegetarian


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.

When I identify as a vegetarian, I occasionally face questions such as “What do you eat?” or “How can you give up bacon?” Those questions and related experiences reflect the dominance of meat within contemporary American culture, at least among some. In some parts of Asia, those who identify as vegetarians typically do not hear such questions because vegetarian cuisine is much more common and has been for a long time. Continue reading “Who Are You? I’m a Vegetarian”

Notes from the Field: Nones and the AAR

a panel

The rationale motivating and grounding the panel, “Discussing the ‘Nones’: What They Say about the Category of Religion and American Society”, which was part of the Religion and Popular Culture Group in the American Academy of Religion meeting in Baltimore in November 2013, was to initiate a conversation over and about what the construction of the category “Nones” says (or doesn’t say) about the category of religion and religion in American society.

The label “Nones” typically refers to those who report “no religious affiliation” on surveys, with recent reports emphasizing a growing number of those counted as “None,”—1 in 5 by an October 2012 Pew Forum Report. Here, the Edge‘s own Monica Miller and Steven Ramey reflect on their participation in this panel, which also included Sean McCloud (UNC Charlotte), Chip Callahan (Missouri) and Patricia O’Connell Killen (Gonzaga). Continue reading “Notes from the Field: Nones and the AAR”

Strategic Images

CE Ethiopian Virgin

How can people portray revered figures, like the icon of Mary and Jesus above from Ethiopia? News reports from Jharkhand in eastern India have described a conflict over a statue of the Virgin Mary. (View an image of the statue here.) Some leaders of the Sarna community, what is often labeled a “tribal” community in India, have complained that the statue depicts her in the traditional dress of the Sarna and with a dark complexion. Some have speculated that the image is designed to confuse the local population into associating the statue with the local goddess Sarna Ma, thus encouraging conversion to Christianity. Sarna who identified as Christians assert their right to present Mary in dress that they associate with their heritage. Subsuming local divine figures into a different configuration to facilitate conversion is often described as a common practice in different historical and regional contexts. Continue reading “Strategic Images”

On the Spot with Leslie Dorrough Smith

“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.

leslieQ: Leslie, you have a book out soon that is on the way a certain rhetoric of chaos vs. order is used by some groups in the U.S. to organize themselves, by distinguishing their members from others, their preferences from others, and their values from others. Is that a fair (if general) description of your project? Could you tell us more?

A: Yes – this is a fairly unorthodox approach to a very mainstream subject.  The book, which is about the rhetoric of one Christian Right group, is entitled Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America (Oxford, 2014). Continue reading “On the Spot with Leslie Dorrough Smith”