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Religious (Studies) Board Games

In comment on October 27, 2014 at 6:44 pm

Where’ve I been? I wish I could say I’d been playing board games, but alas – no.  My book is almost complete, and will enter into production soon! I also have some things to say about a neat story out of Oakland in the next few days.  I’m gearing up to teach Caillois and Huizinga in my class on Ritual tomorrow, partly through this excellent reading of Caillois by a video game designer (!!). But for now, here’s a list of noteworthy (not necessarily an endorsement!) Religion or Religious Studies-esque Board Games. Also note that there aren’t enough games from outside the Abrahamic traditions, and I wasn’t gonna throw “Chutes in Ladders” in there just for historical resonance. Suggestions? Links? Throw ‘em in the comments, friends.

Playing Gods.

Playing Gods is a satirical board game of divine domination. Two to five players each play a different god, and compete with each other to take over the world. This is done by spreading your believers, converting the followers of other gods, or killing them off with Acts of God.

Playing Gods also has an open-ended structure that encourages player creativity. For example, players may choose to be a figurehead of one of the five main religions, or they may choose to create their own gods – or even be their own god! In the Expansion Pack, artistic and creative players may even write and design their own cards.

Here I Stand: Wars of the Reformation.

The lineage of Here I Stand includes descent from both SPI’s A Mighty Fortress (published in 1977) and GMT’s The Napoleonic Wars (2002). Reusing the theme of A Mighty Fortress, the game improves on its predecessor with a much deeper system to handle religious conversions, the additions of New World exploration and Mediterranean piracy, and the explicit inclusion of minor powers that can be coerced into the conflict through card play. Borrowed from The Napoleonic Wars is the use of important cities to determine economic strength and elements of the land combat, avoid battle, and interception systems. Many game mechanics borrowed from The Napoleonic Wars were simplified to ensure a fast-paced game despite the wide range of factor considered by this design. From this base, the game adds mechanics unique to the 16th Century, including heavy use of short-term (and unreliable!) mercenaries, explicit wintering of armies, and the mercurial nature of siege operations, especially against targets that can be resupplied by sea. Here I Stand is an innovative game system, being the first to integrate religion, politics, economics and diplomacy in a card-driven design. Games vary in length from 3-4 hours for a tournament scenario up to full campaign games that run about twice the time. Rules to play games with 2, 3, 4, or 5 players are also included. The 3-player game is just as well balanced as the standard 6-player configuration, taking advantage of the natural alliances of the period.

The Virgin Queen: Wars of Religion.

Virgin Queen: Wars of Religion 1559-1598 is a game of grand strategy for two to six players based on the military, political and religious conflicts within Europe during the reigns of Elizabeth I of England and Philip II of Spain. Each player controls one or more of the major powers that presided over European politics in that day. Spain is the juggernaut, able to draw upon the vast riches of their global empire. But such a dominant power is sure to have many enemies. The Ottoman expansion towards Spain’s Mediterranean outposts remains unchecked. Elizabeth’s English sea dogs are poised to raid Spain’s overseas empire. And the forces of Protestant reform will soon drag Spain into eighty years of rebellion in the Netherlands. Will Spain find aid from its Catholic allies? Perhaps not from France, where the Catholic Valois dynasty is soon to engage another group of Protestant believers in the bloody French Wars of Religion. And even Philip’s relatives in Vienna who rule the Holy Roman Empire may dabble in the Protestant faith instead of remaining loyal to their Catholic heritage and Spanish brethren. Virgin Queen is the sequel to Here I Stand, another card-driven game of grand strategy that covered the previous forty years (from Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses in 1517 through the abdication of Charles V in 1556). Players familiar with Here I Stand will find much that is familiar in Virgin Queen: over half of the rulebook remains unchanged. New game systems have been put in place to emphasize the changing nature of the conflicts here in the late 16th Century

A Game For Good Christians.

It all started playing a game of Cards Against Humanity when someone’s “horrible” card pairing was vaguely biblical and deeply spiritual. One of us said, “imagine if this entire game was based completely on passages from the Bible?” Hours later a midnight phone call began A Game For Good Christians, but it truly goes back further than this.

This game was developed through years of many irreverent and deeply theological conversations; Bible studies, seminary classes, sermons, readings and reflections are at the root of this game, as is deep exploration of the Bible.

The cards capture stories, characters, and statements from the Bible. Some familiar and comforting, others frightening and confusing. Those who have been uncomfortable playing this game have had the most trouble with Canon Cards which quote directly from the Bible without any clever commentary from us.

The Bible, like humanity, is messy because it contains the messy relationship between the divine and humanity: a relationship which is humorous and horrifying. Our game embraces this dissonance. We ask you to do the same.

We are Christians, designers, teachers, preachers, parents, artists, seminary students, male and female, Jew and Gentile, and no respecters of persons.

The only Christian game not afraid of the Bible!

See Religion Dispatches on the game.

Settlers of Canaan.

The settlers of canaan takes place in the territory of canaan off the coast of the great sea. Each player represents a tribe of Israel seeking to settle in canaan guide your tribe through the fertile lands of canaan. Each hex space will yield resources that you can cash in for roads, settlements and cities. Harvest resources of stone and ore from the land to help build Jerusalem and receive king david’s blessing. Harvest timber, grain, wool, and brick to build more roads and settlements to expand your territory work quickly your opponents are moving to settle the most fertile parts of canaan you also need to be wary a plague could come upon you at any time and destroy your harvest. Based on settlers of catan. For 3-4 players. Biblical theme.

A.D. 30:

Walk With Jesus to Jerusalem is a very reverent solitaire game that takes you, as the player, along the travels of Jesus, from His baptism in the River Jordan to His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Along the way, you will make decisions which will affect the outcome of His journeys and teachings. Thirteen possible alternate outcomes are included not to imply that other outcomes were in fact possible, but to build a strategy game that includes challenges with possibility of success and failure as the player of the game. Achieving the Major Victory (the historical outcomes) will demonstrate the extraordinary set of circumstances that took place and were necessary to achieve the birth of Christianity.

The events that take place often cause the political and religious leaders of the area (represented by Caiaphas, Herod Antipas, and Pontius Pilate in the game) to take notice and become increasingly concerned. In game terms, this is shown by moving those Leader markers along a track on the game board, advancing them from their start spaces one step at a time until they reach the final space on that track (“Arrest in Jerusalem”), at which point they attempt to arrest Jesus.

You get the chance to react to these movements with several choices each game turn. The goal is to assemble all twelve apostles, maintain a high level of piety, and enter into Jerusalem. Additionally, when trying to reconstruct the beginnings of Christianity historically, it is imperative that Judas betrays Jesus in Jerusalem. Events tend to push Jesus towards Jerusalem, but try to avoid entering too early before all the important pieces are in place!

Solomon’s Temple.

Solomon’s Temple is a board game of strategy and fun! Each player has his or her own deck of cards and game board. Your goal is to build and furnish the Temple of Solomon while at the same time fighting off invading Babylonian armies (that your opponent controls!). Mix in prophets, priests, Kings, altars and offerings, and the task becomes even more difficult! Do you have what it takes to defend the city and complete the temple in time? (Redemption® fans will want to note that Solomon’s Temple is the only place you can find the promotional King David and King Solomon Redemption® cards!) Board game for 2 players ages 7 and up. Average 1 hour game.

Kalua Board Game.

On the tropical island of Kalua, different religions compete to become the one and only religion. You will take the role of one of the Gods that Kaluans follow and you will reward your families with good harvests, nice weather and general well-being or punish them with famine, epidemics floods and other disasters if they do not pray to you enough; but do not forget that there are other Gods on the island and Kaluans cannot tell where all their bad luck is coming from.

Opus Dei.

Opus-Dei: Existence After Religion is an atheist-themed game (with no affiliation with the catholic organisation Prelatura del Opus Dei) built around the world of philosophy though no philosophical knowledge is needed to play as it is a purely strategy-based game. The philosophical foundation is however only the beginning the next steps include expansion sets that explore historical events politicians artists musicians writers and revolutionaries of all kind. Opus-Dei: Existence After Religion is a new entertaining and irreverent card game that takes place in a universe where religion is almost completely something of the past. In this world without religious dogma the players represent rival Zeitgeists (German Time-Spirits) competing in a battle of rational ideas to maintain ethics morals and meaningful lives for all by virtue of reason! When playing the game a queue of potentially existing philosophers scientists and fools are lined up for each round. These humans are worth varying amounts of points according to their intellectual status and magnitude. It is then up to each Zeitgeist in their turn to create the best of them into their particular World by playing up to two cards that can serve their best interests. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins!

There’s Nothing Easier Than Making a Zombi

In comment on February 19, 2014 at 11:57 am

Fantasies of black magic have it all wrong: there’s nothing easier than making a zombi – an individual devoid of interest, love,
consciousness, compassion, and strength. Real magic is the capacity to take the zombi population which surrounds us, which lives predatory in our own hearts, and bring them back to life.

Chineseness in Cambodia – Beginning a Bibliographic Collection of Online resources

In comment on February 2, 2014 at 4:18 pm

A nice short conversation developed on twitter yesterday, relating to ethnicity in Cambodia, and specifically to Chinese ethnicity. Chinese ethnicity in Cambodia has always vacillated between being a positive and a negative, at least from the perspective of the dominant Khmer ethnic group.  The Chinese have been seen as tricky con-men, out to deceive and rob Khmer with their superior knowledge of numeracy (late 19th century), or as Fifth Columnists under the Vietnamese-sponsored PRK regime (1979-1989), during which period ethnic Chinese display was positively forbidden.

During the period in which I stayed in Cambodia the longest (2003-2006), Chinese ethnicity was much more positively valued: not only were Chinese people able to publicly declare their ethnic heritage, use their various languages, display colors and Chinese regalia/accouterment, many called themselves Kūn Kat Chin (កូន​កាត់​ចិន; Half-Chinese Child), and being associated with Chineseness was even a positive for upwardly mobile Khmer who, when asked, admitted to not having any actual Chinese genetic inheritance. As a funerary scholar, my favorite example of this were the rise in numbers of such Khmer who adopted Chinese funeral practices, going so far as to bury, instead of burn. I promised my informants total anonymity – they remembered Circular 351 (the PRK circular forbidding Chinese language or cultural expression) far too well, but many of the Chinese coffin makers and suppliers of Chinese funeral regalia (Chinese funerals typically are much more elaborate in terms of dress, and different outfits identify the specific relationship to the deceased) confirmed that the adoption of Chinese practices by non-Chinese Khmer was a very real, and substantial, trend.

Before proceeding to the links, I want to make it clear that there is no such thing as “Chinese” in Cambodia. Instead, as has been recognized by scholars of Cambodia, and Chinese-Cambodians themselves, though far less often by Khmer or others, there are many different types of Chinese, who speak different dialects/languages (remember, ‘A language is just a dialect with an army and a navy’), and have differing cultural expressions. Some, such as the Hakka, have integrated so thoroughly into Khmer society that it can be difficult even for some of their descendants, to recall that they are ‘Chinese.’ Others, most especially the Cantonese, have a reputation for separatism, ‘snootiness,’ and an insistence on marrying other Cantonese. The only point made in the above is that there is a great deal of diversity in the ‘Chinese communities’ of Cambodia. For many, ethnicity is also fluid and occupationally-related. I interviewed several older women (I identify their age to indicate that this may have changed in the interim) who married Khmer men, but insisted to me that they “Became” or “Did” Chinese, once the were no longer farmers but engaged in the marketplace.

I promised a few links, and would be grateful for more in comments, should they be locatable.  Here you go:

William A. Willmott’s early text “The Chinese in Cambodia,” is usually referred to as the first scholarly study of the Chinese in Cambodia. I cannot find a PDF of this book online, but here’s the google book link. His influential 1969 article, “Congregations and Associations: the Political Structure of the Chinese Community in Phnom-Penh, Cambodia”, is stuck behind a paywall, which I deplore, but is certainly not his fault. 

Under the regime of Democratic Kampuchea, ethnic cleansing and genocide were directed against the Cham, Chinese, and especially the Vietnamese, though it must be emphasized that the violence levels and charges of genocide appear to be more relevantly applied to the Khmer Rouge after their loss of power (1979) than during their years in power. Regardless, it was less safe to be an ethnic minority during the DK years even than a Khmer, and it was safe for no one. Gregory Stanton’s 1992 report on this can be found here

When I was chair of the Thailand/Laos/Cambodia (TLC) Studies Group at the Association of Asian Studies, we were very fortunate to have Dr. Willmott deliver a lecture on his work over the decades. The text of that address is here, and well worth reading. That text was published in an issue of “Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review.” An introductory abstract is here, but some of the full articles are also available for free access online. The introduction to the issue, which was dedicated entirely to ‘Mediating Chineseness,’ and dedicated specifically to Dr. Willmott, is available in full, written by Dr. Lorraine Patterson and Dr. Penny Edwards, here.

Sambath Chan (full disclosure, an early language instructor of mine) wrote his Master’s thesis on “The Chinese Minority in Cambodia: Identity Construction and Contestation,” in 2005. In 1996, Chan worked with Dr. Edwards on a report for which I cannot find an online version, but which is titled: “Ethnic Chinese in Cambodia. Phnom Penh: The Preah Sihanouk Raj Academy. (mimeo)”

Dr. Edwards also has an individual article in that issue, titled “Sojourns Across Sources: Unbraiding Sino-Cambodian Histories.” (She has a particular talent for titles, in my opinion, which complements her skill at analysis)

Dr. Satoru Kobayashi wrote a working paper on the topic, titled “The Reconfiguration of Cambodian Rural Social Structure, with Special Focus on the People Called Chen and Khmae,” which is entirely available, and in my opinion, important.

In searching for online sources, I discovered Adam Jelnek’s 2008 article in Acta Asiatica, titled, “The Chinese in Cambodia.” I have not read it yet, but the entire issue is online. His article starts on page 36.

And since I have written one 2012 article on the Laerng Neak Ta ( ឡើងអ្នកតា ) rituals performed by Chinese associations in and around Phnom Penh, for alternately Chinese spirits (BenTouGong) and for Khmer spirits, I’d be remiss not to link to the bibliographic information here. It is, unfortunately, not online at the moment. It’s titled “Khmer spirits, Chinese bodies: Chinese spirit mediums and spirit possession rituals in contemporary Cambodia,” and is collected in “Faith in the Future: Understanding the Revitalization of Religions and Cultural Traditions in Asia.” 

Much other work on the construction and contestation of ethnicity in Cambodia is available, and though I have limited myself here to Chinese, I cannot help but add also Dr. Ian Baird’s 2011 work on the “Construction of Indigenous Peoples in Cambodia,” or the magnificent Ph.D. thesis by Alberto Pérez-Pereiro, titled “Historical Imagination, Diasporic Identity and Islamicity among the Cham Muslims of Cambodia.” It needs to be put online somewhere, because it reads like a novel and is one of the finest minority-studies in Cambodia pieces of writing I have read. Emiko Stock has a blog on Cham ethnicity as well, which must be checked out, called Cham Attic.

Thanks to those folks on twitter who encouraged me to write up a few notes. This is little more than a bibliographic beginning, and I hope perhaps will stir to pot further, to see what rises to the surface.

“Enacting Buddhism: Perspectives on Cambodian Buddhist Painting”

In comment on January 21, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Image

There are a million things I want to write about Cambodia right now. But there are a lot of other things taking up my time and energy right now as well, so those writings must wait for the time being.

Instead, please allow me to promote this event, which will be taking place on January 31st at the Institute for East Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. I’m particularly excited about the other panelists, who include many friends and good colleagues, such as Art Historian Boreth Ly, Art Historian Pattaratorn Chirapravati, Asian Studies Scholar Terri Yamada, Joel Montague, whose paintings compose the exhibit (and who shares my passion for hand-painted Cambodian signs, and just published a book on the subject), and Caverlee Cary, the chair.  Recently added to the lineup is the estimable young scholar Trent Walker, whose work on Smot (ស្មូត្រ) – Cambodian Funerary Songs – remains an astonishing accomplishment that combines art and scholarship.

I myself will be talking about Buddhist paintings as a capacious imaginal space (I draw the word imaginal here from Henri Corbin) for the imagination and creation of evolving identities, national, political, and of course, religious.

If you’re in the Bay Area, I hope you’ll consider attending, and perhaps even introducing yourself to me. 

Excisions, #1

In comment on December 10, 2013 at 1:40 pm

As I go through the process of pruning my book manuscript in order to deliver to the publisher, I will occasionally post a few sections that I had to cut, but which for reasons obvious, obscure, or inane I have decided to somehow preserve.

Today’s excision is a note about the ways in which scholars of Theravada Buddhism have talked about ‘syncretism’ in Buddhism in Southeast Asia:

Kitiarsa offers an excellent review of the literature on the ‘problem’ of Southeast Asian Buddhism (Kitiarsa 2012). Instead of syncretism, Kitiarsa describes Thai Buddhism as a ‘vigorous hybrid,’ a genetic metaphor, and adds in the notion that it is the widespread commodification of everyday life, and the transformation of perceived needs, that drives modernizing religious difference (Kitiarsa 2012, 2, 31-33, 19). Peter Skilling has also adopted the word hybrid, though in a linguistic mode, specifically to avoid the notion of ‘syncretic,’ emphasizing the creative agency involved in the creation of such hybrids (Skilling 2007, 208 n.2). While I prefer the linguistic metaphor to the genetic one, both appear to suffer from the assumption that we might somehow access an originally pure and non-hybridized tradition.

Kitiarsa, Pattana. 2012. Mediums, monks, and amulets: Thai Popular Buddhism. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Skilling, Peter, Jason A. Carbine, Claudio Cicuzza, and Santi Pakdeekham, eds. 2012. How Theravada is Theravada?: Exploring Buddhist identities. Bangkok: Silkworm Books.

Episcope: “Begininning a Sketch of Accumulation by Dispossession in Contemporary Cambodia”

In comment on June 20, 2013 at 6:45 am

A new short piece of my writing has been published over at Episcope. It’s called “Beginning a Sketch of Accumulation by Dispossession in Contemporary Cambodia,” and I hope you go check it out. I’ve written about Accumulation by Dispossession, or ‘Primitive Accumulation,’ on this blog frequently in the past. Click here to see those posts. There are pictures by photographer John Vink as well, to induce you to click this link.

Episcope is a relatively new online blog from Cultural Anthropology, and is attempting to promote different types of ethnographic writing, as indicated in this partial description:

This is an experiment. The insights of anthropologists are usually sequestered in academic circles, networks, and classrooms. Our work is also often constrained within a slow, arduous publishing process such that our writings frequently fail to address in an immediate way the pressing realities we often grapple with in our fieldwork. For these among other reasons, anthropologists rarely affect how current issues are enacted in mainstream narratives.

Thanks, Episcope!

Kristof’s White Savior Pose Critiqued Again

In comment on June 17, 2013 at 9:44 am

I’ve gotten a lot of sudden traffic on this small site recently, and much of it is a result of Anne Elizabeth Moore’s recent takedown of Nicholas Kristof, which you can read in the always-excellent The Baffler, here. Welcome, new folks, and please check out my ‘about this blog‘ post, or heck – just poke around a bit. 

Anne’s critique of Kristof is beter and more thorough than my own early and abortive attempts.  Moore has done work in Cambodia and maintains a very active web presence, which you can check out by starting here.  She wrote an earlier takedown of Kristof with author and activist Melissa Gira Grant, which compiles some other people’s critiques as well, including mine, here.

I’m grateful that folks like Anne Elizabeth Moore and others are taking Kristof to task. Brava!

 

Read: Bruce Lincoln’s “Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars”

In comment, read on May 22, 2013 at 10:54 am

I received my copy of Bruce Lincoln‘s latest book, titled Gods and Demons, Priests and Scholars: Critical Explorations in the History of Religionsand finished it last night (See here for a short review of a previous book of his). It is an excellent book, full of the sort of provocative, clearly-argued, and most-often compelling arguments about the field of religious studies, its methods, and, to a slightly lesser extent, application. These subjects have been at the heart of Lincoln’s academic project for quite awhile, and it is not an accident that this volume, which is a collection of essays and articles, many of which have been published in journals previously, begins with a piece of writing that is one of Lincoln’s most famous and provocative: his “Theses on Method.” These theses have provoked much response and discussion by those who challenge Lincoln as overly reductive, or hostile, to religion, though I have never seen his approach in that way. You can read Timothy Fitzgerald’s criticism of this piece, and Lincoln’s response, here and here.

I studied under and worked with Lincoln for a few years as a doctoral student at the University of Chicago Divinity school. Having taken several classes with him, met with him as an advisee, and attended many public talks, I never found him hostile to religion as such. He might have been occasionally reductive, but only in the sense that he was willing to examine phenomena very closely, which I take as a characteristic of scholarship, and indeed, language.

Two pieces (Chapters Two and Twelve) offer straightforward advice on how to accomplish particular tasks within Religious Studies (“How to Read a Religious Text” and “Theses on Comparison”). Others deal with cosmogonic (universe-creation) myths, modern and ancient science and how they dealt with phenomena that don’t confirm their cosmologies, differently-characterized types of mythic discourse, World Religions as a discourse of its own, as well as the traditional themes of sanctified violence. His final essay, “On the (Un)discipline of Religious Studies,” begins with an anecdote – and an essay unpacking that anecdote’s relevance – of an argument between Mircea Eliade and Jonathan Z. Smith on whether chaos or order should be prioritized in time (i.e., ‘which comes first, order or chaos?’). Each essay is worth careful study.

I will be using parts of this book for my first version of my “Introduction to Theory and Method” course, which I’ll be teaching this fall. At a minimum, I intend to have us

  1. Work through “Theses on Method” and its responses
  2. Read “How to read a religious text,” and apply those rules to both (a) a religious text, and (b) the essay itself
  3. The (Un)discipline of Religious Studies, with a discussion on the importance of institutions that study Religion, such as the American Academy of Religion (AAR), which Lincoln discusses in this chapter.

I recommend this book to all those who study Religion, especially those for whom the primary goal of Religious Studies is something other than the celebration of religion as sacred and beyond interrogation. As Lincoln phrases it, “As it happens, with the possible exception of Economics, ours [Religious Studies] is the only academic field that is effectively organized to protect its (putative) object of study against critical examination.” (in his response to Fitzgerald, p. 167).

Archaeology Dissertation on Iron Age Cambodia Available

In comment on May 15, 2013 at 9:28 am

It’s been out there for a while, but I’d be deeply remiss if I failed to draw your attention to Dr. Alison Carter’s (UW-Madison) dissertation. In the spirit of actual intellectual exchange (sometimes called ‘Open Access’), she’s placed her dissertation online for download.  

The dissertation is called “Trade, exchange, and socio-­political development in Iron Age (500 BC -­ AD 500) mainland Southeast Asia: An examination of stone and glass beads from Cambodia and Thailand,” and it’s available here for download in various formats.

Dr. Carter has been doing archaeological research in Cambodia for years, and focuses on Iron Age trade objects – specifically beads. Through the analysis of these beads, she’s able to hypothesize about the geographical origins of the beads (because of the materials out of which they are made). Through understanding the geographical origins, she illuminates early trade networks – both within and beyond the boundaries of mainland Southeast Asia. Her work is deeply important to scholarship on a region, the prehistory of which is difficult to know because of a lack of preserved written texts (excepting inscriptions in stone).

Go! Read!  And when you’re done, check out her great blog.

Introducing Castoriadis for Religion and Anthropology. A First Attempt

In comment on April 12, 2013 at 11:45 am

ImageI’ve often been frustrated by the lack of prior attention to Castoriadis’ thought in anthropology: good work has been begun by Alain Touraine (sociology) and Nancy Munn and David Graeber (anthropology), but nothing really systematic and explicit has been done.[1]  That’s not a criticism, just a complaint that the work’s not already done.

Here are some thoughts I’m working through today, from Castoriadis’ foundational The Imaginary Institution of Society, all from Chapter Three: “The Institution and the Imaginary. A First Approach” (Castoriadis 1975, 114ff.)

If you’re not familiar with Cornelius Castoriadis, I highly recommend becoming familiar. He was a founder of the journal Socialisme ou Barbarie in France, a Greek Communist who fled Greece chased by both the Stalinists (for his then-Trotskyism) and the Fascists, and who was one of the very first marxists to mount a critique of the USSR, a critique he made by criticizing its bureaucratization and its alienation from the revolutionary social groups that attempted to institute it. Often called either the “Philosopher of the Imagination,” or the “Philosopher of Autonomy,” his influence has been deep in some fields (radical political thought, psychoanalysis) but negligible in its reception in other fields and disciplines, including my own. He is sometimes credited with inspiring the 1968 worldwide rebellion, though it is certainly both more accurate and more modest to say rather that his writings influenced some of those revolutionaries in way that significantly altered their approach. Here’s a Wikipedia article, and here’s a link to the Cornelius Castoriadis/Agora International Webpage.

A first word of introduction: Castoriadis’ use of the word ‘institution’ refers to any shared object created by society, ranging from concepts, gestures, and symbols, to organizations and governments, those things which we more commonly use the word to refer to in everyday American English. These institutions are created by groups of people – that is, they are instituted, and, in a way that replicates much of Weber’s analysis of routinization and the creation of bureaucracies, become alienated from these groups, an alienation that signals the institution’s autonomy from society: the institution has gained its own life, its own force in the social world. One might almost call this the creation of a form of social agency, or as David Graeber wrote of the concept of the fetish in an essay that references Castoriadis, “Gods in the process of construction” (Graeber 2005)

More after the jump…. Read the rest of this entry »

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