Religion and Race

Not that I’m the first person to come to this realisation or anything, but I had a flash of insight the other day. I was reading Masuzawa on the invention of world religion. She makes the point that religion, in its modern sense, is invented first, as Christianity distinguishes itself from other ‘religions’. In other words, religion is a category invented in order for Christianity to assert its own supremacy.

About the same time I was listening to Anthony Paul Smith’s interview with George Yancy. Listening to Yancy’s description of the relationship between whiteness and race, it occurred to me that it was the exact same logic – discourse on race is invented in order to create a space in which whiteness can be asserted as supreme.

Again, no where near the first person to make this connection. Somehow it just hit me in a way that resonated at a deep and profound level.

Gramsci’s Ashes

I was in Rome this past spring and went to an exhibit on Pasolini at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, which included an excerpt from his poem ‘Gramsci’s Ahses’. I particularly like this bit:

Here are the seeds – I testify –

still undispersed by the ancient rule,

these dead men chained to ownership

that over centuries submerges their shame

and their grandeur: at the same time, obsessed –

the striking of anvils, stifled,

quietly grieving – of the lowly

quarter – attesting to its end.

And here I am… a poor man, dressed

in clothes the poor ogle in store windows

of coarse splendour, that have faded,

in the filth of more lost streets,

of streetcar benches, from which my day

is removed: more and more rarely

I have these days off from the torment

of deciding to live; and if it should happen I

love the world, it’s not with a violent

and ingenuous sensual love

like I had, a confused adolescent, a season

I hated; if in it I hurt the bourgeois

affliction of my bourgeois self: and now, the world

– with you – cleft, that part which had the power

doesn’t it seem now an object of bitterness,

almost mystical contempt?

Yet without your rigour, I exist

not because I choose to. I live in the non-will

of postwar decline: loving

the world I hate – in its distress

contemptuous and lost – in a dark scandal

of consciousness…

Read the whole thing here.


Hegel and Radiolab

This is a cheap, shallow connection backed by little to no technical knowledge or research, but I thought it was interesting, so what the hell.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I like Hegel.  At first Hegel was the necessary evil that I had to go through to study Lacan, Marx and religion.  Then he took over my PhD, but in the back of my mind it was still just a hoop to jump through on the way to later research interests.  But now, I actually really like Hegel.  Especially after reading Heidegger.  I find Hegel so much more convincing in his method, his conclusions and the political implications of both (at least as I see them).

Then this morning I was listening to an old Radiolab episode on ‘What Technology Wants’, taken from the title of a Kevin Kelly book.  Kelly, who was one of the guests, was describing how technology taken as a whole, has come to have a degree of autonomy.  For example, imagine trying to turn off the internet.  I can’t even understand what that means.  How would you do it?

What Hegel offers is a way of understanding these kinds of things.  Technology, politics, religion… things that are related to human beings, but have developed a kind of autonomy.  God acts in the world.  I don’t believe in a divine being, but there is an idea, referred to commonly as God, who has effects on people.  Hegel gives us a way of understanding this without necessitating that we ascribe wholeheartedly to confessional ideas about God, but while also allowing us not to condescendingly dismiss the way that a substantial number of people order the world.  I think this logic is transferable to the way we think about all ideas or processes that originate within humanity, but then achieve a degree of autonomy (granted there is a difference between religion and technology, but perhaps the difference is as profound as often think).