The concept of the soul has an important place in the conceptual apparatuses of towering figures of modern social thought such as Georg Simmel, W. E. B. DuBois, or György Lukács. Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, philosopher Stephen T. Asma wonders why the concept still lingers in academia despite the justified skepticism of most present-day academics.
Posts Tagged ‘language’
Haiti has always suffered from a plight of representation: “Black France” for Jules Michelet, “a tropical dog-kennel” for Thomas Carlyle, Haiti forced imagination high and low. For V.S. Naipaul, a later connoisseur of caricature, the “desert of Haiti” is the source of the “nothing” that he claims as a West Indian legacy. In their coverage of the earthquake, the media represented Haiti as a passive, neutered object of disaster, with no history, no culture, nothing except images of rubble, pain, dirt, and misery. How did the news dare to show piles of bodies being bulldozed into mass graves after the earthquake? To talk about the smell of urine? To focus on women in postures that could only be called abject? What do the representations of Haiti tell us about the force of metaphor? And why are these metaphors so crucial to North Americans? What is a metaphor a metaphor for?
Keane’s account is convincing, but it is important to contextualize the semiotic ideology he defines. I could be misreading Keane here, but it struck me that he reads Calvinists’ views of the Lord’s Supper to glean how they imagined Christian truth. But I would argue that in the hands of Calvinists, this semiotic ideology would only be employed to explain other people’s false religions. The Lord’s Supper was downgraded to the status of metaphor because, like all works, it could play no instrumental role in salvation. What Catholics and idolaters shared in their formal prayers and ritual performances was an overvaluation of human agency and institutions at the expense of the sovereignty of God and the surprising work of the Holy Spirit, which could not be contained in any external institutional, material, or linguistic forms. Against empty forms and rituals, Calvinists sought the real, active, vital presence of the Spirit that animated and invigorated the human body and the social order. To this end, the Holy Spirit worked through what can be described as a metonymic operation that stressed immediate contact and presence.
I’ll start with a comment about my own angle of approach. There is of course no view from nowhere, and it is one task of the commentators to point out the blind spots that any perspective inevitably brings with it. As an anthropologist, my aim was not originally to construct a critique of modernity or of Christianity. The book emerged out of a long series of attempts to grapple with the challenges my research in Sumba presented to certain common sense assumptions about persons, materiality, and language. I came to see those assumptions as characteristic products of the liberal and secular world that produced the habits and disciplines within which many of us live, and thanks to which, in part, the book itself was written.
John Lardas Modern, an assistant professor of religious studies at Franklin & Marshall College, draws on Beat poets, phrenologists, prison reformers, and Moby-Dick to show why taking technology seriously forces us to think differently about the boundaries of religion. His article “Evangelical Secularism and the Measure of Leviathan” appeared in the December 2008 issue of Church History. His book Haunted Modernity; or, the Metaphysics of Secularism is forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press.
“That it cannot break time and time’s greed—that is the will’s loneliest misery.” Thus spoke Zarathustra. To try to escape this misery, according to him and his ventriloquist, Nietzsche, the will can travel one of two roads: it can fashion an eternity, with the promise of a redemption there, outside of time; or it can reconcile itself to this greed, somehow working through it, seeking a redemption here, in the midst of time. The first road is that of transcendence; the second, of immanence. When we decide for ourselves which road to travel—not only in grand moments of crisis and conversion, but also in humble moments every day of our lives—we implicitly answer the paramount question of our losing battle with time: how shall we overcome this, the will’s loneliest misery? [...]
“Evangelicals”—getting a handle on the concept requires asking why we want to know.
Despite the fact that there is considerable journalistic and scholarly discussion today concerning the role of evangelicals in American public life, the label itself has become a contested term. Just who should be labeled as evangelicals? And what serves as the basis of unity for those so gathered together under that label? Does the stipulated definition of evangelical exhibit any explanatory power either historically or currently? Or, is the term so contested that it would be better to abandon the use of the label altogether? [...]
Anglophone scholars have long struggled to find a terminology with which to study non-Catholic Christianity in Latin America. We are used to studying Christianity in terms of Catholics versus Protestants, with “Evangelicals” being a subcategory of the latter. But Latin Americans tend to divide Christians into Catholics versus Evangelicals. To make matters worse, when scholars go to Latin America and start talking to those who call themselves Evangelical, they quickly realize that these are what would be called Pentecostals, as spirit baptism, faith healing and speaking in tongues all play a central role in their religious practice. [...]