Making the Strange Familiar

Have you seen The Carbonaro Effect? It’s a TV show where an undercover magician does tricks in settings where people don’t expect to see magic performed, and we get to watch their reaction.

Maybe he’s working at a cash register in a grocery store and finds a live chick in the dozen eggs you’re buying or maybe he’s someone you meet in the break room at work who pulls an incredible amount of food from his little lunch bag, along with cut flowers and a vase — either way, the star of the show is the person with whom he interacts and how they try to make sense of what they’ve just witnessed. Continue reading

Making the Familiar a Little Stranger

Picture 8

Have you seen the reactions online to the release of a video of kids performing a warm-up number at a Trump rally held at Pensacola, FL, a couple days ago?

If not, then I’ve seen a lot of social media jabs that insinuate that this bizarre routine is more akin to what we’d expect from modern-day North Korea or Nazi Germany in the late 1930s — after all, using kids in that way… Sheesh. And the lyrics…?!

Freedom’s on our shoulders, USA!
Enemies of freedom face the music, c’mon boys, take them down
President Donald Trump knows how to make America great
Deal from strength or get crushed every time

Continue reading

Making the Familiar Strange

campdavidA theme I’ve written on a time or two before is the inability (or unwillingness) of many scholars to entertain that, being themselves members of a particular social group, they tend to draw upon folk concepts popular among their own group and then project them outward (in space and time), as if they are universals that name and describe stable self-evidencies in the world at large. While we probably have no choice but to know the new by means of the old (like the European colonialist arriving on distance shores, speaking slowly and loudly, asking, “What religion are you?”), we can also try to retool the known in light of that meeting, when gaps and contradictions start to become apparent, to eventually come to see it as itself local and situated, and thereby work toward developing a new set of tools capable of answering the different questions that a scholar likely asks.

It’s the old challenge of hearing the familiar as itself a little strange. It’s a question of theory. Continue reading