Starting a Strange Fall

Welcome to the Seminar Digest for CMRC. Following the Center’s meetings each week during the academic year, research fellows will share reactions, reflections, and connections related to the discussion. This issue of the Seminar Digest reflects on recent events ranging from Falwell’s resignation to the party conventions. The names connected to each entry are those of Center fellows.

Given how much I think about race and representation, I was interested to see how much simultaneous vitriol and grace singer Adele was given by many when her recent Instagram post was called out for cultural appropriation. Adele joins a long list of white women called out for coopting Black hairstyles. However, the nuance with which debate ensued makes me think about the ambivalence Sarah Banet-Weiser refers to in her book, Authentic TM:  The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture. Adele certainly did appropriate an African hairstyle with her Bantu braids, and that is problematic in terms of representation and culture. And to add insult to injury as a weary media consumer in 2020, I was disheartened to see that even a story about race managed to center her weight loss journey as a marker of her social and cultural value.

–– Samira Rajabi

Anthea Butler’s op-ed about the Falwells and the “myth of the moral majority” is a timely and provocative read.

–– Deborah Whitehead

I am a parent who is careful to instill in my children an irrational fear of YouTube. I was therefore reassured to encounter this Current Affairs takedown of children’s viral superstar Blippi. Comparing Blippi’s maniacal superficiality to the television ministry of Mr. Rodgers, Nathan Robinson eats alive the affective callousness of Trumpism through the kid entertainment that algorithmically coincides with it.

–– Nathan Schneider

Abby Ohlheiser’s recent piece for the MIT Technology Review is an insightful intro to evangelicalism’s synergistic relationship with the QAnon conspiracy movement. This article joins a chorus of similar recent analyses which share a common refrain: to understand how conservative evangelicals navigate their media ecosystems, you must understand their unique approach to reading and interpreting scripture. The growing gulf between political factions in the U.S. is not simply a polarization brought on by filter bubbles and echo chambers; as this article describes, it is a more nuanced epistemological rift.

–– Art Bamford  

The party conventions last month expressed two versions of the U.S. –– hope and darkness. Competing visions of the U.S. have dominated public discourse this summer. There is, as the LA Times writes, masked and unmasked America or an older dual America that continues to exist. I can’t help but revisit Rev. Dr. King’s “Other America” speech, originally given in 1967. Dr. King’s words are as relevant today as ever.

–– D. Ashley Campbell