Épater les Bourgeoise…?

I do no speak or read French. Many years ago, however, in undergraduate school, I had a professor of English literature who was inordinately fond of the French phrase épater les bourgeoise—as he would translate it on a regular basis, “to shock the ordinary human being out of his [or her] lethargy.”  That is, there are those works, persons, events to which ordinary human beings, most of us, can only react in shock, sometimes in dismay; other times in paralysis.  One such event historically is the Holocaust (Hebrew, Shoah), the systematic, organized and planned murders of more than six million Jews—children, women, and men—and others: Sinti/Roma; homosexuals, primarily males; the physically and mentally challenged; and, lastly, so-called “asocials”, those whom the Nazis deemed unworthy of place in their present and future society. Even today, more than seventy-five years after the end of World War II, its power to shock, dismay, frighten, disorient shows no signs of abating.  Concomitantly, those most associated with this “crime of crimes”, this paradigmatic genocide—Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, Rudolf Hoess, Alfred Rosenberg, and others in the upper echelons of the Nazi hierarchy—still retain their power to amaze and disgust us as the very embodiments of evil personified.

Closely associated with them and their murderous agendas are the words which also retain their power: Auschwitz death camp (symbolic of the entire system of death); the Warsaw Ghetto, symbolic of Jewish incarceration and Jewish resistance and other unsuccessful efforts at extermination; Six Million, symbolic of the Jews murdered; and the like. Continue reading

Expat or Immigrant?

7544web (3)

By Mary Rebecca Read-Wahidi
Becky is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology and will graduate just as soon as she finishes writing her dissertation on the Virgin of Guadalupe. She joined the Department of Religious Studies as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Fall of 2012, and was immediately enamored by the charming atmosphere, lofty office space, and pencils with “religion in culture” printed on them.

One thing I have gained from my experience as a GTA in Religious Studies is a more sharply-honed critical eye for labels, categories, and the act of “naming”. Now, as I write the final chapters of my dissertation, I find myself revisiting categories of “immigration”.
Back when I was writing my master’s thesis, I wrestled with the difference between migrants and immigrants. How should I refer to those people central to my study who are of Hispanic origin and are residing in Mississippi and working in the poultry industry? My understanding is that migrants are specifically driven by work, tend to be mobile, and don’t plant their roots, while immigrants come with the intent to stay and establish a new life. Sounds simple enough, but both of these scenarios exist in my research community to varying degrees. In the end, I settled on what seemed like the politically-correct compromise of “im/migrant”, an awkward term that I do not care to use for my dissertation. Continue reading