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Scholarly Works, Religion and Culture

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Research articles, presentations, and other scholarship

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  • Losing Salvation: Notes toward a Wayward Black Theology
    Armstrong, Amaryah Shaye (Duke University Press, 2023-08-01)
    This essay argues that critiques of redemption in contemporary black theory necessitate a rethinking of black theology in terms of loss so as to upend the political theological order of redemption and damnation that justifies antiblack governance of thought and existence. Through an immanent reading of political theology’s appearance in ostensibly secular black feminist thought, the article shows how these way ward metabolizations of black the logy’s internal and external contradictions-specifically, those that illuminate a fundamental crisis of meaning at its heart—reveal black theol­ogy’s abjection and alienation from its own stated desires for redemption. The article argues that this debasement of black theology opens onto its significance for black thought. As a form of black thought, black theology and its ongoing crisis of meaning crystallize the political theological crisis of illegitimacy and alienation generated by the failed announcement of redemption in racial slavery’s wake. Through a reading of Saidiya Hartman and Christina Sharpe’s work, the article shows how a way ward form of black theology is immanent in the ostensibly secular work of these and other rad i cal black theorists. Taking their critiques of the redemptive theology that under girds antiblackness as instructive, the article argues that a wayward, rather than confessional, form of black theology is already operative in realms of black studies that might be called nontheological. Recasting black political and theological desire for the coherence of redemption as a failure, the article proposes a loss of salvation and heretical appropriation of Christian theological materials as a demand for black thought. By critically reoccupying the sense of dam nation that marks blackness, radical black reproductions of theological knowledge can insist on a disinherited procedure of thought-a rebellious gnosis in blackness-that disfigures the romance of redemption.
  • North American Universities and Socioecological Transformation
    Satterwhite, Emily M. (Even3, 2022)
    Otto et al (2020) suggest areas where interventions may trigger a “social tipping point” in efforts to address the climate and ecological crisis. One of the six is climate education and engagement, a natural leadership realm for higher education. Yet Garner et al (2021) observe that universities’ efforts to address the climate and ecological emergency (CEE) are “insufficient” due to “time lags” between education/research and effects as well as universities’ “failure” to confront politics “or the forces invested in maintaining the status quo.” This paper endorses a growing chorus of calls for structural changes in university research, teaching, and service in order to respond to the CEE, drawing on a personal example to illuminate the challenges.
  • Recovering Paul Robeson
    Seniors, Paula (ASALH Press, 2022-08-31)
    This lesson will recover the history of Paul Robeson and provide teachers with culturally responsive resources, activities, and innovative educational approaches to teaching. In teaching the life of Paul Robeson I use historical analysis and use his Here I Stand to teach his biographical background and his ideology concerning human rights. This lesson utilizes historical methods and texts including Nell Painter’s “Cold War, Civil Rights” to teach about the McCarthy Era/The Red Scare and Robeson’s historical milieu. I have students conduct a sociology of art analysis of Nikolas Muray’s “Nude Kneeling,” (1926) to discuss Robeson as a Hyper Masculine African American Übermensch. I also teach students music and textual analysis by listening to Robeson from Songs of Free Men. We also watch film clips from Song of Freedom (1936) and Big Fella (1937). These all work to illustrate Robeson’s career and stardom. This lesson also uses Lynn Nottage’s Crumbs from the Table of Joy, scene three which students stage and perform. The play teaches students U.S. governments conflation of civil rights activism with communism, the fear this era instilled in people and the era’s effect on everyday African Americans like the family in the play and Robeson.
  • Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith: Excavating Black Girls History
    Seniors, Paula (The Association for the Study of African American Life and History, 2022-09-01)
    In Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 fifteen-year old Claudette Colvin and eighteen year old Mary Louise Smith on separate occasions refused to stand up so that a white supremacist women could take their bus seats. This lesson looks at how Colvin and Smith initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I explore why these girls faced erasure from the historical record. I look at Montgomery’s Black Elite and the cities National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s role in their erasure. This lesson works to Excavate the Black Girls History of Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith. This lesson is designed for eighth to 12th grade students.
  • The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life [Book review]
    Britt, Brian M. (Journal of Religion, 2015-10-01)
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality: Four Case Studies
    Ansell, Aaron (2021-08)
    The following four case studies are fictional thought experiments designed for college students at Virginia Tech. They are mainly intended for use in undergraduates the novel “Tech for Humanity Minor” focused on the intersection of technology and cultural processes, group diversity, ethics, knowledge systems, democracy and social justice.” The minor is an interdepartmental effort spearheaded by The Center for Humanities and supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These four cases center on the related technologies of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) and their role in new forms of policing, marriage, incarceration, and interpersonal violence. They are set sometime in the near future and are premised on recent or imminent technological achievements.
  • On Calling Donald Trump 'Corrupt'
    Ansell, Aaron (Routledge, 2022-05-31)
    This chapter advances an eccentric model of corruption both to understand various disturbing features of Donald Trump’s political career, and to explore the risks of using the term “corrupt” as a pejorative label for Trump. Here corruption refers to the transfer of value from higher to lower positions along a moral gradient through a violation of the sacred. Curiously, Trump himself celebrates his own sacrilegious transfer of value from the "elite" to those ordinary (coded white) people positioned at the bottom (the so-called “Deplorables”) of a moral gradient identified with "The Establishment." Therefore, adversarial assertions of Trump’s corruption risk mimetically affirming the modes of agency he arrogates to himself. More specifically, they risk testifying to his successful transfer of (mostly symbolic) value through a set of three tactics-- excitation, transduction, and shunting-- explored throughout the chapter.
  • Recasting Islamic Law: Religion and the Nation State in Egyptian Constitution Making
    Scott, Rachel M. (Cornell University Press, 2021-03)
    By examining the intersection of Islamic law, state law, religion, and culture in the Egyptian nation-building process, Recasting Islamic Law highlights how the sharia, when attached to constitutional commitments, is reshaped into modern Islamic state law. Rachel M. Scott analyzes the complex effects of constitutional commitments to the sharia in the wake of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. She argues that the sharia is not dismantled by the modern state when it is applied as modern Islamic state law, but rather recast in its service. In showing the particular forms that the sharia takes when it is applied as modern Islamic state law, Scott pushes back against assumptions that introductions of the sharia into modern state law result in either the revival of medieval Islam or in its complete transformation. Scott engages with premodern law and with the Ottoman legal legacy on topics concerning Egypt's Coptic community, women's rights, personal status law, and the relationship between religious scholars and the Supreme Constitutional Court. Recasting Islamic Law considers modern Islamic state law's discontinuities and its continuities with premodern sharia.
  • “Lots of Prayer, Lots of Emotional Coaching, and Pray it Works out the Best”: Tuning in to Kids in a Rural Appalachian Community
    Hernandez, Erika; Carmichael, Katie; Satterwhite, Emily M.; Yanuaria, Chelsea; Dunsmore, Julie (2020-07)
    Rural Americans face barriers in access to services such as psychoeducation programs. The purpose of this study was to describe how participants in a rural Appalachian community, a geographic location that has been largely underrepresented in the literature, responded to a psychoeducation program about parents’ facilitation of children’s emotional competence. The Tuning in to Kids (TiK) parent education program focuses on improving parents’ awareness of children’s emotions, their ability to promote children’s developing emotional competence, and the strength of the parent– child bond. This work has shown beneficial effects in Australia, yet research is scarce regarding implementation in the United States, particularly with rural populations. The TiK program was delivered in 2 groups of 6 sessions each, with 2 participants in the first group and 7 participants in the second group. To analyze session transcripts, we employed discourse analysis methods from multiple disciplines, including thematic coding, linguistic analysis, and sociocultural analysis. Overall, our interdisciplinary analysis allowed us to draw conclusions about unique ways that both participants and the facilitator contributed to group success. Key results included the emergence of 4 major themes: participants’ questioning/adopting TiK methods, parental support across participants, facilitator’s leveling the hierarchy, and facilitator self-disclosure. Findings support the utility of an interdisciplinary approach to examining parent education in rural Appalachia, a population that is underrepresented in the literature. Further, our findings support parents’ openness to psychoeducation in this community, as well the effectiveness of the facilitator’s integration of locally-relevant content throughout the program.
  • Building Interdisciplinary Partnerships for Community-Engaged Environmental Health Research in Appalachian Virginia
    Satterwhite, Emily M.; Bell, Shannon E.; Marr, Linsey C.; Thompson, Christopher K.; Prussin, Aaron J. II; Buttling, Lauren G.; Pan, Jin; Gohlke, Julia M. (MDPI, 2020-03-05)
    This article describes a collaboration among a group of university faculty, undergraduate students, local governments, local residents, and U.S. Army staff to address long-standing concerns about the environmental health effects of an Army ammunition plant. The authors describe community-responsive scientific pilot studies that examined potential environmental contamination and a related undergraduate research course that documented residents’ concerns, contextualized those concerns, and developed recommendations. We make a case for the value of resource-intensive university–community partnerships that promote the production of knowledge through collaborations across disciplinary paradigms (natural/physical sciences, social sciences, health sciences, and humanities) in response to questions raised by local residents. Our experience also suggests that enacting this type of research through a university class may help promote researchers’ adoption of “epistemological pluralism”, and thereby facilitate the movement of a study from being “multidisciplinary” to “transdisciplinary”.
  • Xiuzhen (Immortality Cultivation) Fantasy: Science, Religion, and the Novels of Magic/Superstition in Contemporary China
    Ni, Zhange (MDPI, 2020-01-02)
    In early twenty-first-century China, online fantasy is one of the most popular literary genres. This article studies a subgenre of Chinese fantasy named xiuzhen 修真 (immortality cultivation), which draws on Daoist alchemy in particular and Chinese religion and culture in general, especially that which was negatively labelled “superstitious” in the twentieth century, to tell exciting adventure stories. Xiuzhen fantasy is indebted to wuxia xiaoshuo 武俠小說 (martial arts novels), the first emergence of Chinese fantasy in the early twentieth century after the translation of the modern Western discourses of science, religion, and superstition. Although martial arts fiction was suppressed by the modernizing nation-state because it contained the unwanted elements of magic and supernaturalism, its reemergence in the late twentieth century paved the way for the rise of its successor, xiuzhen fantasy. As a type of magical arts fiction, xiuzhen reinvents Daoist alchemy and other “superstitious” practices to build a cultivation world which does not escape but engages with the dazzling reality of digital technology, neoliberal governance, and global capitalism. In this fantastic world, the divide of magic and science breaks down; religion, defined not by faith but embodied practice, serves as the organizing center of society, economy, and politics. Moreover, the subject of martial arts fiction that challenged the sovereignty of the nation-state has evolved into the neoliberal homo economicus and its non-/anti-capitalist alternatives. Reading four exemplary xiuzhen novels, Journeys into the Ephemeral (Piaomiao zhilv 飄渺之旅), The Buddha Belongs to the Dao (Foben shidao 佛本是道), Spirit Roaming (Shenyou 神遊), and Immortality Cultivation 40K (Xiuzhen siwannian 修真四萬年), this article argues that xiuzhen fantasy provides a platform on which the postsocialist generation seek to orient themselves in the labyrinth of contemporary capitalism by rethinking the modernist triad of religion, science, and superstition.
  • Impeaching Dilma Rousseff: the double life of corruption allegations on Brazil’s political right
    Ansell, Aaron (2018-08)
    This essay analyses the 2016 congressional impeachment of Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, for alleged budgetary misconduct, as well as the related right-wing, ‘anti-corruption’ demonstrations calling for her ouster. I argue that Rousseff’s impeachment was facilitated by a conflation of two models of ‘corruption’ operating in Brazil, one legal-behavioural and the other religious-ontological. What happened in 2016 was a tacit conflation of these two models, along with their associated regimes for construing evidence of guilt. More specifically, congressional deliberations on Rousseff’s guilt allowed jurisprudential standards of evidence to be influenced by the evidential regime of the right-wing Fora Dilma (‘Out Dilma’) demonstrators. The demonstrators evinced Rousseff’s corruption through a semiotic process I term ‘cross-domain homology’, a process that I claim is intrinsically dangerous for democracy because it invites a state of exception to the norms girding representative institutions.
  • Models of Clientelism and Policy Change: The Case of Conditional Cash Transfer Programmes in Mexico and Brazil
    Ansell, Aaron; Mitchell, Ken (2011-07)
    Clientelist systems vary, and this variation influences the adoption and evolution of conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes. We find that vertically integrated, corporatist clientelism in Mexico and more locally oriented, bossist clientelism in Brazil differentially shape the choices of governments to turn piecemeal, discretionary CCTs into more expansive and secure benefits.
  • Auctioning Patronage in Northeast Brazil: The Political Value of Money in a Ritual Market
    Ansell, Aaron (2010-06)
    Fundraising auctions help people in a small rural town in Northeast Brazil reckon with the effects that currency stabilization and democratization have had on municipal politics. These simultaneous processes have made politics confusing for the people of Passerinho by creating multiple modalities of electoral reciprocity. In this article, I argue that the ritual procedures of the auctions commensurate these modalities of reciprocity through a semiotic procedure in which money signifies both exchange value and more personal forms of value. I consider the auction's impact on municipal politics by looking at its effect on the narrative of democratic progress and on the prestige of grassroots politicians, traditional elites, and voluntary associations.
  • “But the winds will turn against you”: An analysis of wealth forms and the discursive space of development in northeast Brazil
    Ansell, Aaron (2009-02)
    In this article, I explain the unfolding of a participatory development project in northeast Brazil by exploring how local genres of public speech articulate with categories of wealth. Although development resources cannot be easily categorized into local classes of wealth, they nonetheless evoke some of the anxieties cultivators feel when dealing with wealth forms susceptible to the evil eye. Beliefs surrounding the evil eye shape cultivators’ relations to material objects, and they also define the contours of safe and acceptable speech within the village development association. As a result, during association meetings, the villagers speak in ways that frustrate development agents seeking to generate “open” and “transparent” managerial discourse felicitous to project success—at least, external notions of project success. Appreciating the link between wealth and speech forms sheds light on both the local implementation challenges that participants in such projects face and the reason development agents frequently blame ostensive project failures on beneficiary backwardness.
  • Clientelism, Elections, and the Dialectic of Numerical People in Northeast Brazil
    Ansell, Aaron (University of Chicago Press, 2018-04-01)
    This paper explores rural Brazilians’ interpretations of and ethical reflections on political clientelism. Brazilian elites often regard the people of the dry hinterland (sertanejos) as lazy, politically apathetic, and prone to corruptingdemocratic elections through the sale of their votes. Here I argue that the sertanejos living in the northeastern state of Piau런ractice a form of clientelism that entails an ethical distinction between degraded vote buying and morally upright electoral transactions with politicians. For the sertanejos of Piauí‘s interior, ethical electoral transactions do not corrupt democratic elections; they reverse the moral damage that elections themselves cause. Elections refigure socially embedded persons as numerical individuals destined to be added together as equal quanta of generic value. Ethical transactions reconstitute the voter’s socially embedded personhood after the election has passed. However, rather than vindicating clientelism, this analysis draws attention to the social inequalities that prevent some people from practicing the ethical forms of political exchange. It therefore builds toward a standpoint for critiquing political clientelism that does not reproduce liberal idealizations of democratic citizenship.
  • Environmental health disparities in the Central Appalachian region of the United States
    Krometis, Leigh-Anne H.; Gohlke, Julia M.; Kolivras, Korine N.; Satterwhite, Emily M.; Marmagas, Susan West; Marr, Linsey C. (De Gruyter, 2017-09-26)
    Health disparities that cannot be fully explained by socio-behavioral factors persist in the Central Appalachian region of the United States. A review of available studies of environmental impacts on Appalachian health and analysis of recent public data indicates that while disparities exist, most studies of local environmental quality focus on the preservation of nonhuman biodiversity rather than on effects on human health. The limited public health studies available focus primarily on the impacts of coal mining and do not measure personal exposure, constraining the ability to identify causal relationships between environmental conditions and public health. Future efforts must engage community members in examining all potential sources of environmental health disparities to identify effective potential interventions.
  • Review: Don't Go Up Kettle Creek: Verbal Legacy of the Upper Cumberland
    Speer, Jean H. (Journal of American Folklore, 1984)
    In Don't Go Up Kettle Creek, Montell reconstructs the history of the Upper Cumberland River region "as it is perceived from the vernacular point of view, relying on personal reminiscences, oral traditions, balladry and song, and printed materials (which were themselves derived from oral history data) as primary sources of information" (p. 1). Although these oral sources provide the substance of the book, Montell corroborates the oral information wherever possible using more standard historical and folkloristic printed resources. Continuing a tradition he has established in his own work, Montell early on sets forth his sources of information, his methodology, his motives, and his philosophy for this study. On all these points, he appears careful in his approach to oral history research and is unusually clear in making his approach known to the reader.
  • Imagining Home, Nation, World: Appalachia on the Mall
    Satterwhite, Emily M. (Journal of American Folklore, 2008)
    This article reads the Smithsonian's annual folklife festival as a cultural product buffeted by changing material conditions and funding constraints as the United States transitioned from a Fordist industrial economy to a post-Fordist information economy. Based upon visitor interviews, promotional materials, and news reports, this article argues that the transition from a national to an international framework reconfigured the role of Appalachia in visitors' imaginations. In 2002, Appalachia represented ideals of "nation" and "home" in contrast to tantalizing and threatening foreign cultures and allowed visitors to entertain the wishful belief that the United States was a simple place peopled by simple denizens innocent of imperial ambitions.