Messing Up at Starbucks, or the Ritual Order of Choice

starbucks

I’m a regular customer at Starbucks. Several times a week, I walk into one, order a drink, wait for it, say thank you, and walk out. I’m sure many of you do the same thing pretty often, if not every day, without even thinking about it.

But I once failed miserably at this banal procedure. It was my first year in the US and I had just arrived from Japan, so many things were still new to me. But Starbucks was definitely not new. I had spent so many hours there studying as an undergraduate student in Japan that it felt like my habitat, even though I was now in Boston. I walked into one store and everything looked familiar – the menu, employees’ uniform, and interior.

“What would you like, ma’am?” It was my turn to order. “Café misto, please?” I answered (or something of the sort). Then the employee – a nice young woman – said something that I had never heard before: “holetoopercetskimhaffanhafforsoy.” Continue reading

“It’s Absolutely Essential That You Continue, Teacher…”

obedienceThe other day, my REL 245 class, concerned with investigating some of the background assumptions that make it possible for many scholars today to study religion in America in terms of choice — as if religious consumers are shopping in a competitive spiritual marketplace — took a look at Stanley Milgram’s famous series of psychology experiments; dating from the early 1906s, this series of experiments examined the role authority plays in human action and decision-making. Continue reading

“Paging Mr. George Kaplan…”

hailingIn my REL 245 class, we’ve just started off the semester by watching Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1959 film, “North By Northwest.”

Not seen it?

You ought’a. Continue reading

Keeping it Private — or Not

protestA recent development, reported here, nicely illustrates the socio-political function of privacy, e.g., the (once?) widespread notion that those claims on behavior that were said to be premised on religious belief are merely a private affair concerning faith, sentiment, etc. For now this once common presumption is being troubled — inasmuch as the U.S. Supreme Court seems to be gradually dismantling it, in favor of allowing (just some) such claims to warrant exemptions from federal law.

But once this notion is undermined, who can tell what else about the public domain will start to change, given how many interests are vying for a piece of that pie. Continue reading

From Mysticism to Spirituality, From Tradition to Individual

richardkingProf. Richard King, from the University of Kent in the UK, was on campus to deliver our 12th annual Aronov Lecture. Perhaps best known to some for his interest in the history of the study of religion in south Asia during the colonial period (e.g., his 1999 book, below), Continue reading