Posts Tagged ‘culture’

November 18th, 2013

Buddhism in context

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For Tricycle, an independent Buddhist publication, Linda Heuman interviews David McMahan, scholar of Buddhism and modernity, and author of The Making of Buddhist Modernism.

September 11th, 2012

The secular as space, the secular as process: The 2012 UCSIA summer school

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At the end of August, the two of us joined approximately 30 scholars from around the world in Antwerp, Belgium for the 2012 Universitair Centrum Sint-Ignatius Antwerpen (UCSIA) Religion, Culture and Society Summer School. UCSIA annually invites select early-career researchers (doctoral and post-doctoral) and senior scholars for a weeklong program designed to stimulate interdisciplinary and international discussion on a theme, this year’s being “secularism(s) and religion in society.”

May 25th, 2011

Every moment an Aha! Moment!

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Kathryn Lofton’s Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon is a work, first and foremost, of cultural anthropology. The back cover confirms this fact. Yes, the book is about the incorporations of Oprah. But more significantly, it is an ethnography of “American astonishment,” of what it feels like to live before screens that enlighten and advertise and encompass (the virtual counterpart of living within the effervescent glare of studio lights and perpetual applause). Lofton captures, as few writers can, the everyday magic of our viral time—what, in the ritual grammar of Oprah, are referred to as “Aha! Moments.”

April 18th, 2011

De-provincializing Oprah

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In Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon, Kathryn Lofton holds up a lustrous mirror to the polymorphously perverse dynamics of boom and bust, surplus and lack, and redemptive optimism and paranoid anxiety that characterize America (and much of the world) at the turn of the twenty-first century…. [Her] insight into the intense and extensive contemporary intra-activity of materiality and spirituality is a powerful explanatory tool. For example, it helps explain the explosive growth of global Neo-Pentecostal networks and cultures, which operate through mass media and popular culture to spread a gospel of health and wealth based on the notion that spiritual salvation, economic success, and physical well-being are mutually implicative.

April 5th, 2011

Oprah, the Rorschach test

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Focusing on Oprah as an icon/inkblot, we can use our reactions to her as a Rorschach test:  What do we project onto Oprah and what analytical blind spots result from these projections and the discursive anxieties that underlie them? The uneasiness, evident in Lofton’s tone throughout the book, is an index of fundamental contradictions that many of us, as members of the intellectual elite, embody.

February 25th, 2011

States of Devotion, a brand new blog

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The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at NYU has recently launched States of Devotion, a trilingual blog serving as “an interactive forum for news, analysis and opinion-making about religion and politics in the Americas.”

February 13th, 2011

Competitive theism at the Grammys

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In anticipation of the Grammy Awards tonight, Neill Strauss asks, “Why do so many musical superstars think that their careers are part of a divine plan?”

December 1st, 2010

Culture, nature, and mediation

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Matthew Engelke is right: religion is about mediation. Ironically so, because it is about the divine; but because the divine is never directly available, religion must instead be about how the divine is indirectly manifest. . . . Because religion is about mediation, it naturally refuses any duality of nature and culture. Reality, as the true nature of things, is sacred, but it must be mediated by particular human relations and practices. Culture, therefore, can be neither merely arbitrary nor totally opposed to nature, since it is what truly discloses the latter.

November 19th, 2010

Muslims and their garb

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A few weeks have passed since Juan Williams, the erstwhile NPR commentator, said that he gets nervous when he sees passengers in “Muslim garb” on an airplane. A website called Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things has exposed just how ludicrous the concept of “Muslim garb” is.

July 9th, 2010

The quiet (ir)religion of the polite and apathetic

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For many Minnesotans, religion is a private matter that shouldn’t be talked about—not even among friends. For others, it hardly makes sense to think of religion as public or private because it seems so obviously embedded in both spheres. As someone who has to talk about religion a lot, two rough groups emerge for me: on the one hand, there are the public non-theists; and on the other, there are those who talk about religion, whether or not they are actually religious themselves.