The Department is Winning the Internet Today


The Department has taken over the Marginalia Review of Books today. The popular site for reviews of work in religious studies is currently featuring interviews with both Prof. Merinda Simmons and me, Prof. Mike Altman.

Prof. Simmons discusses her new co-edited book The Trouble With Post-Blackness in an interview with Monica Miller and Christopher Driscoll. Here’s a little about the book from the interview:

One of the main interventions that the book makes, to my mind, within the contexts you mention comes in its implicit (and at times explicit) insistence that those doing work in race studies — whether as academics or activists — complicate the notion of “self-determination” that post-blackness proponents hold up as an unproblematic gold standard of racial performance in America. In order to critique appeals to an authentic way to be black, Touré interviews what he calls “105 luminaries.” I am sympathetic to, and would even echo, his starting point — that something called blackness is not reducible to a pure or identifiable state. However, the fluidity and flux that he wants to stack up as worth consideration and even emulation (one of his chapters, after all, is entitled “How to Build More Baracks”) are represented only by people of political and economic access and prestige. Complex, boundary-breaking identity performances are not exclusive to one cohort or another — indeed, I would suggest that what we have come to call identity is necessarily constituted by exactly these moments in which regulatory boundaries come into focus through a subject’s conformity to or contestation of them. That said, the consequences of these very performances that traverse boundaries and enunciate their own fluidity are quite different across various contexts. It is one thing for Oprah to celebrate being “rooted in, but not restricted by” blackness. It is quite another for the (one in every three) black men in America who will be processed through the prison industrial complex.

Read the full interview here. 

Meanwhile, I was a guest on the Directions in the Study of Religion podcast, also hosted at Marginalia. I spoke with host Kristian Petersen about my research into the invention of Hinduism in America during the 19th century. You can listen to the full interview below.

These two interviews with our faculty are great examples of what it is we actually do around here. Many of our faculty are interested in the ways categories are constructed–race, backness, Hinduism–and what’s at stake in those constructions for various social actors. When you read and listen to the interviews you can see how two faculty members with very different examples and data sets can share the same sorts of questions. It’s those shared questions that hold our department together. It’s how we study religion in culture. And it’s how we win the [religious studies] internet today.