Posts Tagged ‘politics’

February 19th, 2014

Mourning a political saint in Johannesburg

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On December 6, 2013, I, along with millions of South Africans, woke to the news that Nelson Mandela had died. For the next ten days, South Africans would be plunged into a liminal period of commemoration: one marked by scenes of celebration, protest, and jubilation rather than tears and lament. As a white North American, conducting field research for my dissertation, this proved an incredible time of reflection. In what follows, I offer some snapshots of how Mandela was memorialized in Johannesburg and what this reveals about the current religious, political, and racial landscape.

October 4th, 2013

The Communist Party and the future of religion in China

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This short essay sketches out the different views that may be identified within the Chinese Communist Party as we look at the recent actions of the party on religious affairs—actions that seem to end in contradictory directions. On the one hand, the promotion of international Buddhist and Taoist forums and the liberalization of regulations concerning the social activities religious organizations are allowed to perform, and, on the other hand, the continued harassment of some religious minorities. Debates about the involvement of religion in contemporary global politics have for the last four decades often overlooked China, an oversight rooted in two misconceptions widely held both in the West and among Chinese leaders themselves.

September 30th, 2013

Law’s fragile state

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Mark Fathi Massoud, Assistant Professor of Politics and Legal Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, examines the trials and tribulations of law in Sudan in his new book, Law’s Fragile State: Colonial, Authoritarian, and Humanitarian Legacies in Sudan. In an interview with Jadaliyya, Massoud speaks about his motivation to uncover the essence of how law—and lawlessness—operate in the context of fragile states. Massoud also elaborates on his topic in a blog post at the Critical Investigations into Humanitarianism in Africa Blog.

September 5th, 2013

Catholic bishops on immigration reform

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The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has undertaken a coordinated effort to preach the message of immigration reform in diocese across America as reported by The New York Times.

August 16th, 2013

Engaging whose religion?

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In late July, The Immanent Frame published a set of reflections on the Department of State’s plans for a new office dedicated to engaging religion. Following an official announcement by Secretary Kerry on August 7th, scholars and policy commentators have continued to weigh in on the implications, challenges, and potential of the new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives.

July 31st, 2013

The religious dimension of Morsi’s mandate

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The Immanent Frame contributor Mbaye Lo writes at Mondoweiss on ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s claim of legitimacy and its underlying religious nature, drawing upon narratives from Islamic history.

July 31st, 2013

New report on religion and international relations

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working group on “international relations and religion,” convened by Michael Desch and Daniel Philpott, recently released released a detailed report.

July 4th, 2013

Religious freedom and the Constitution

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Dennis J. Goldford was recently interviewed by Religion Dispatches Magazine about his new book The Constitution of Religious Freedom: God, Politics, and the First Amendment, which explores the notion of “separation of church and state” and the religious identity of America.

June 25th, 2013

President Carter calls upon the Catholic Church to ordain women as priests

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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter calls upon the Catholic Church to ordain women as priests as part of an interview discussing religion, faith, and women’s rights with Time Magazine reporter Elizabeth Dias in order to promote The Carter Center’s upcoming Mobilizing Faith for Women conference

June 12th, 2013

The anatomy of a public square movement

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Sociologist (and longtime TIF contributor) Nilüfer Göle assesses the emerging opposition movement in Turkey at Today’s Zaman.

June 10th, 2013

Occupy Gezi, beyond the religious-secular cleavage

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Photo by Deniz DemirThe protests in Turkey started on May 27 with a modest resistance movement against the destruction of Istanbul’s Gezi Park and the planned construction, in its place, of a replica of the Ottoman artillery barracks that formerly stood there (which, however, was also to include a shopping mall). The Occupy Gezi movement has since grown exponentially and spread to other Turkish cities, largely in response to police brutality and to the inflammatory speeches of Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The unprecedented scope and duration of the protests—and, even more importantly, the emergent movement’s pluralistic composition and inclusive political style—make it a genuinely new phenomenon in the ninety-year history of the Republic.

September 24th, 2012

New journal: Critical Research on Religion

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Sage Publishers has announced the launch of Critical Research on Religion.

July 30th, 2012

Voting for an atheist?

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In a recent article, Religion News Service discusses a Gallup poll survey, in which a majority of Americans said they would vote for a “well-qualified” atheist for President.

June 14th, 2012

Live online panel on Egypt elections

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This Friday, June 15, The Duke Islamic Studies Center’s Transcultural Islam Project is co-hosting a panel discussion on the upcoming Egyptian run-off elections.

June 1st, 2012

Multiculturalism in Europe

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After the rise of multicultural policies in the 1980s and 1990s, the winds have shifted in Europe. Terrorist attacks in Madrid, London, Norway, and, most recently, in Toulouse, have furthered the securitization of Islam across Europe, while increasing immigration (predominantly from Muslim countries) has caused societal tensions. As a result, existing ideas concerning multiculturalism, religious pluralism, and national authenticity are being challenged. Past policies of cordon sanitaire are no longer in full effect, as mainstream political parties have come to adopt some of the ideas of their populist and right-wing peers; witness outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign rhetoric against immigration and Muslims following the strong showing by right-wing candidate Marine Le Pen.

We’ve invited a small handful of scholars to comment on the increasing influence of anti-immigration and anti-Islam ideas and parties across Europe and to offer their thoughts on how best to accommodate minority claims (especially those involving Islam) in a democratic and liberal Europe.

April 16th, 2012

Muslims and the Republican party

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Nona Willis Aronowitz, at GOOD, discusses the impact that Republican, anti-Islamic rhetoric has had on Muslim voters.

April 12th, 2012

On the secularist-Islamist divide

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At Al Jazeera EnglishElizabeth Shakman Hurd gives an abridged history of the past half-century of Tunisian politics, and relays the Enahddan notion that the revolution in Tunisia is neither unambiguously Islamist nor secularist.

April 11th, 2012

The year of the Islamist

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David Rohde, in Reuters’ Analysis and Opinion blog, designates 2012 as the year of the Islamist and discusses the likelihood that Islamists will remain in power in Tunisia and Egypt.

February 21st, 2012

Do candidates need the Catholic vote anymore?

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Ed Kilgore argues that American Catholics no longer represent a voting constituency that is significantly different from non-Catholics.

February 9th, 2012

Power and resources: A conversation with Sidney Jones

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In May of 2010, I sat down for a conversation with the legendary human rights advocate Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group. Jones and I had just come out of an intense two day workshop at the SSRC on religion, peacebuilding, and development in Mindanao, organized in conjunction with the SSRC’s project on religion and international affairs. Participants in the workshop included scholars and peacebuilders from the United States, Mindanao, Japan, and Indonesia.

January 27th, 2012

Brazil’s religious right

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In the Guardian, Tom Phillips profiles Jean Wyllys, Brazil’s first openly gay MP—and explores the growing political voice of the country’s far-right evangelical leaders who oppose him.

January 24th, 2012

A coherent integration policy for Europe

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In the New York Times opinion pages, Boston College political science professor Jonathan Laurence argues that it’s up to—and in the interest of—Europe’s governments to devise a coherent policy of integration for the continent’s growing Muslim population.

November 28th, 2011

There is Power in the Blog: Paul W. Kahn

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There is Power in the Blog is hosting an eight-part discussion on Paul W. Kahn’s recent book Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Columbia University Press, 2011). Featuring posts by Susanna J. Snyder, Jerome Copulsky, Michael Hollerich, Vincent Lloyd, William T. Cavanaugh, Chris Baker, as well as a response from Kahn, the discussion reflects the wide range of reactions to Kahn’s complex work. For even more on Political Theology, please browse through The Immanent Frame’s extensive series.

November 8th, 2011

Politics of Faith—The Role of Religion in Divided Societies

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America Abroad, the award-winning documentary radio program, has released a new documentary, “The Politics of Faith—The Role of Religion in Divided Societies.” Drawing from interviews with locals and experts, the documentary examines the religious undercurrents that are sharpening societal divides, from Egypt to China, from Russia to Malaysia.

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November 7th, 2011

A response to critics

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I knew that my new book, Political Theology, would be controversial. It covers a lot of ground; it produces odd conjunctions; and its rhetoric can sound extreme. It pays little attention to academic conventions and often cuts against popular, political expectations. Some might think presumptuous its design and method  of “rewriting” Schmitt’s classic. Many readers are startled to find that out of an engagement with Schmitt can come an exploration of freedom in its political, legal, and discursive dimensions. Others are surprised to find that a book about sovereignty and law—let alone a theological inquiry—puts the imagination at its center.

October 4th, 2011

What is evil?

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What is evil? The question is asked in very different ways in two recent articles. The first, by Ron Rosenbaum at Slate, asks whether, in the terms of neuroscience, evil can be said to exist. He’s unsure about this.

August 29th, 2011

Democracy under exception

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I agree with Kahn (and with Schmitt) about the fact that political theory should leave room for decision and exception. But to me, the main question is: to what extent? Are there no principles that admit no exception? When I read Kahn, as when I read Schmitt, I don’t seem to encounter any such principles—anything like what Habermas thematized in Law and Morality as “indisponibility,” that is, rights that are not at the disposal of the sovereign. Can the sovereign decide that torture is a legitimate practice? The answer, to me, should be no without exception.

August 26th, 2011

Political theology and political existentialism

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“At stake in our political life,” Paul Kahn observes, “has been not our capacity to be reasonable, but our capacity to realize in and through our own lives an ultimate meaning.” While it would require little effort for me to catalogue the many insights that seized my attention while reading Kahn’s thoughtful and highly provocative new book, it is this basic insight that chiefly arouses my interest, insofar as it serves as the organizing premise for the argument as a whole. It is therefore this claim most of all that deserves close scrutiny.

August 24th, 2011

Is there a crisis of secularism in Western Europe?

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Even quite sober academics speak of “a contemporary crisis of secularism,” claiming that “today, political secularisms are in crisis in almost every corner of the globe.” Olivier Roy, in an analysis focused on France, writes of “The Crisis of the Secular State,” and Rajeev Bhargava of the “crisis of secular states in Europe.” Yet this is quite a misleading view of what is happening in Western Europe.

August 22nd, 2011

Paul Kahn’s mis-prognosis of America’s social imaginary

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As I argued in my previous post, there are indications that Paul Kahn subscribes to Carl Schmitt’s belief in the substantial cultural indebtedness of the modern to “the theological.” Most of these stem from the “genealogical” side of his methodology. But his search for residuum of the past is supported, as I will here attempt to demonstrate, by a very selective use of history.

August 18th, 2011

Normative demands of Islamic studies scholarship

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As a lawyer, I appreciate the critical importance of historical inquiry to contemporary legal challenges; as a historian, I resist attempts to demand normative outcomes from historical research. Balancing these disparate commitments is no easy feat and the endeavor warrants restraint.

August 9th, 2011

Slavoj Žižek on radical politics and Christianity

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Over at the Religion and Ethics blog of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Slavoj Zizek has written an opinion piece on what he views as the aspect of the Christian legacy that is most important for radical politics today—atheism.

August 3rd, 2011

The suspicious revolution: An interview with Talal Asad

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Not long after his return from Cairo, where he was doing fieldwork, I spoke with Talal Asad at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, where he is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology. Distinguished indeed: with books like Genealogies of Religion and Formations of the Secular, as well as numerous articles, Asad’s work has been formative for current scholarly conversation about religion and secularity, stressing both global context and the ways in which their interaction has been shaped by local histories, in the West and the Middle East. Most recently, he co-authored (along with Wendy Brown, Saba Mahmood, and Judith Butler) Is Critique Secular? (University of California Press, 2009) and contributed a chapter to the just published SSRC volume Rethinking Secularism (Oxford University Press, 2011).

July 25th, 2011

The political theology of freedom and unfreedom

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Kahn has identified an ideal—the sacrificial ideal of freedom—that exists both as an ideal and at times in practice. And while the U.S. is certainly his main subject, he describes an ideal of freedom that has purchase well beyond American borders. Perhaps this freedom is what we’ve seen evoked by some of the protesters in the Middle East and North Africa in recent months. And Kahn is right to draw our attention to the claim that there is something miraculous in the plausible appearance of “the people.” Conjuring the people by giving up one’s self seems to represent just the kind of freedom and popular sovereignty that Kahn has in mind. The challenge for those who accept Kahn’s ideal is how to bring the individual and the conjured popular sovereign into a sufficient degree of unity with the apparatus of government, for such is the condition of more lasting freedom. These are the directions in which Kahn pushes us, and we need not think that he is correct on a factual or phenomenological level all of the time in order to examine this ideal, to ask when and how it emerges, and to see it as something astounding and “theological.”

July 18th, 2011

The politics of the atonement

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To grasp the deep architecture of the political today, therefore, is to venture into the theological domains of Christology and especially atonement, that area of theology (particularly, Christian theology) that deals with the logic of (redemptive) death. But the journey cannot be simply phenomenological in the way Kahn carries it out. Or, put differently, it may need to be phenomenological, but in a way that Kahn himself has not considered. Atonement thinking, and the “death contract” that binds politics, must, from within a different phenomenology (and therefore from within a different approach to political theology), be redirected. There must be a new future of death and the political.

July 14th, 2011

Critiquing reductionism

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There are reductive categories . . . that have been and should be abandoned in scholarly discourse because the terms are inherently pejorative. But there are other terms—such as religion—that, while not explicitly denigratory, can very rarely be used without legitimating a deeply problematic political position.The issue is ideology and not only oversimplification.

July 7th, 2011

The politics of inaccuracy and a case for “Islamic law”

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Since the process of understanding divine law is not a uniform or singular one, there are multiple interpretations of what divine law is, and, consequently, there are many schools of Islamic legal thought. The sharīʿah-fiqh distinction is one that is clearly recognized in Islamic jurisprudential texts and beyond. While I am still in the process of undertaking a thorough historical study, I suspect that the conflation of the terms sharīʿah and fiqh became normative among Muslims in the modern era—particularly in the context of Islamist-based resistance to imperialism. Regardless of the precise genealogy, the use of the term sharīʿah rather than fiqh in contemporary Muslim discourses has political motivations and ramifications; in other words, it is essentially about power.

July 5th, 2011

The Theological and the Political

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From Fortress Press, an interview with Mark Lewis Taylor, author of The Theological and the Political: On the Weight of the World (Fortress, 2011).

July 5th, 2011

Religion and marriage debate

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Should the state be in the business of marriage, or is it inherently a religious union that should be performed solely by religious groups? Will the religious exemptions to recent same-sex marriage laws influence their viability in the long run? Last week, The New York Times posted a debate on its website, in which five public figures, scholars and writers, argue about the ways in which the religion and marriage debate draws out perennial questions about the appropriate relationship between religion and the state.

June 1st, 2011

Beyond denial

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For a brief moment in 2007, news of a hit Iranian television series, whose Farsi title was translated variously as Zero Degree Turn or Zero Point Orbit, proliferated across the print and digital mediascapes of the Anglophone world. The series, created by Iranian director Hassan Fathi at great expense and broadcast in a thirty-episode season on the flagship state television station IRIB1, revolves around a Romeo and Juliet plot of illicit romance, with a distinctive twist: while the proverbial Romeo is one Habib Parsa (played by Iranian hearthrob Shahab Hosseini), a Muslim Iranian pursuing his studies in France, his Juliet is none other than a Jewish classmate, Sarah Astrok (played by the French actress Nathalie Matti), with whom he falls in love.

May 23rd, 2011

Ducking the Arab Spring in Morocco

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The wave of protests shaking the Arab political regimes has quietly but forcefully made its way to Morocco. The February 20 youth movement—made up of a loose coalition of independent groups, backed by liberal, leftist, labor, and Islamist opposition movements—is leading the call for democratic change. Since February it has organized two mass demonstrations across fifty major cities and towns, drawing several hundred thousands of protesters. Social and political protests in Morocco are not new, nor do they yet threaten the survival of the regime. But the revolutionary spirit and mass appeal of the movement signal a major shift in popular attitudes regarding the monarchy’s monopoly and abuses of power.

April 28th, 2011

Mamdani on the African uprisings

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Mahmood Mamdami places the Egyptian revolution and other protest movements in the historical context of popular struggle in Africa.

April 25th, 2011

From exodus to immigration

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At Killing the Buddha:

“Muslims, Christians, and Buddhists broke matzo with Jewish Israelis in a Tel Aviv basketball court before this year’s Passover began. The “Out of Egypt” seder, a thousand-strong gathering in a seedy park near the central bus station, was four days early; many of the guests—African refugees and Asian migrant workers—are busy cleaning Israeli homes during Passover proper. The Sudanese and Eritrean guests have literal Out-of-Egypt stories to tell: Most lived in Cairo for months or years before crossing the Sinai by foot to get to Israel. But there’s no Moses in their exodus stories. There are Bedouin smugglers who charge thousands of dollars to lead them through the desert. There are Egyptian border guards who shoot. There are barbed-wire fences to run and jump—if they make it, into another people’s Zion.”

April 15th, 2011

Farrakhan, Qaddafi, and the definition of American Islam

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In another example of how mass media shape and constrain what constitutes legitimate Islam and religion more generally, the New York Times published a news analysis on April 10, 2011, that explains Minister Louis Farrakhan’s recent support for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi as an attempt  to gain support, or at least attention, for his declining movement. I was a source for the story, but an exchange of twenty-three emails seems largely to have failed to convince the reporter of my analysis of the phenomenon as an example of pan-African politics.

April 11th, 2011

Translating music into politics in Haiti

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In Foreign Policy, Elizabeth McAlister—a member of the SSRC Working Group on Spirituality, Political Engagement, and Public Lifewrites on recent electoral victory of Haitian pop star Michel Martelly and how music shapes politics in Haiti.

April 11th, 2011

America in the Egyptian revolution

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I have been in Egypt since February 6, 2011, where I have been witnessing events, talking to friends, activists and non-activists, and to the public in Cairo’s streets—and it is not an exaggeration to say that every corner in Egypt talks politics today. . . . From my observations of events and numerous discussions with others, Egypt’s relationship with the U.S appears, in some ways, to be absent from most of the heated discussions going on today. But upon closer examination, this relationship has been present in the revolution, not only during and after the peak of events—from January 25 to February 11—but also, I would suggest, in the very anti-imperialist underpinnings of the revolution, a revolution that the mainstream American media has miscast as one generated purely internally.

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.

April 1st, 2011

Implicated and enraged: An interview with Judith Butler

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Judith Butler, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is among the leading social theorists alive today. Her most recent books are Frames of War (2009) and The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere (2011), an SSRC volume that puts her in conversation with Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West. As we carried out our conversation by email between Brooklyn and Berkeley, uprisings were occurring across the Arab world, and a U.S.-led coalition had just begun conducting airstrikes in support of rebel forces in Libya. We had discussed some similar questions, and some different ones, a year earlier in an interview for Guernica magazine.

March 30th, 2011

Adrift on common dreams

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What a strange, provocative experience it has been to dwell with Kathryn Lofton’s Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon during these unsettling months. The seams of public life seem especially frayed of late—a precariousness underscored by disasters natural and political that keep coming. And yet ours is the radiant moment of endless possibility so central to Lofton’s subject, whose chief promise is that of a self that matters, that experiences abundance and becoming. It was with this coexistence in mind that I plunged into Oprah’s world.