In or Out?

I’ve got to admit, I’m getting tired of all the “epistemological crisis” talk and the way it’s being pinned on the humanities in general and postmodernism in particular.

For the way I see it, members of groups that once benefited from a broad social consensus are now a bit angry that someone has pointed out the link between power and knowledge. Or, to rephrase, it’s curious to me how a socio-political issue is continually portrayed as an epistemological issue, as if this is all about how “we know” and not about “how we organize” and “who gets to organize.” Continue reading

Of Words and Things: Introduction to a Guest Series

slicedordicedA longstanding debate across disciplines arose once again at a co-sponsored panel at the conference of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR), last November, during a session (pictured above) devoted to reviewing Brent Nongbri’s recent book, Before Religion. Continue reading

Hold Your Fire, Coz the Author is Already Dead

authorisdead

I’ve often used Borges’s wonderful little piece, “Borges and I” in classes, as a quick way into the debate on the death of the author.

If you’ve not read it, it’s worth taking a moment to look it over. Tackle Foucault’s essay, or Barthes’s for that matter, on much the same topic too, if you’re ambitious. It’s worth your while, I think. Continue reading

Putting Us in Our Place

Picture 11There’s an interesting story now making the rounds of the internet, in which Congressman Jeff Duncan (Republican, South Carolina, pictured above) is quoted as saying the following about the Roman Catholic Church’s recent recognition of Palestine as a state:

Picture 10Of course the deep irony is the speed with which a variety of politicians in the US cite their own religious beliefs as evidence for their political positions or how frequently they decry the so-called separation of church and state — when it suits them.

That’s what makes this quote news. Continue reading

Power/Knowledge in Real Time

HindusbookHave you been following the controversy over Wendy Doniger’s recent book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, published by Penguin? It is now being reported that the publisher has agreed to withdraw and pulp the book, in the near future, due to a 2011 court case in India, arguing it was insulting to Hinduism. Continue reading

Just What Are “The Humanities”?

So, just what are “the Humanities”? We know that, at the University of Alabama, the 23 or so Departments that comprise the College of Arts & Sciences are divided among three divisions: The Humanities and Fine Arts; the Social Sciences, and the Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The Department of Religious Studies, like the Departments of English, Theatre and Dance (the British spelling is not a typo), and the School of Music, are grouped together in the Humanities, to name just a few of the others. The Department History, which, throughout the history of the European university was commonly placed within the Humanities–such as in the Alabama Humanities Foundation‘s description (below)–is, however, classed on our campus within the Social Sciences, along with such Departments as Psychology, Anthropology, Criminal Justice, and New College, to name but a few Social Science units–though, come to think of it, New College describes itself as an “interdisciplinary liberal arts program,” which complicates things further, for we now need to inquire into the relationship between the liberal arts (sometimes known as the liberalizing arts) and the Humanities. More on that below. Continue reading