Since the late 1990s, Indian-Americans have begun acting on a desire to see their experience of America reflected through the mass culture they consume. American Desi (2001), which offers a comedic, coming-of-age college narrative of US-born Indian-Americans, was the first true film-based articulation of this desire. A cultural look into identity among ‘Desis’—a word meaning literally “someone from India”—through the lens of youth is the film’s ambitious proposition. This paper places American Desi in its historical and cultural context by privileging what Homi Bhaba coined as “cultural difference”; an examination of the textual articulation of culture to illuminate and analyze the tensions it houses. Through this lens, culture is revealed to inform individuals on simultaneous, multiplex levels that include gender, race and racism, class, consumerism and nationalism. Locating and evaluating the presentation of these dynamic categories and their tensions within the praxis of culture is thus the critical benchmark for American Desi.
Every year on Good Friday, Pax Christi International, a Catholic lay organization dedicated to peace and social justice, performs a radically modern interpretation of the traditional procession, the Stations of the Cross. Unlike conventional re-enactments of the Gospel, Pax Christi’s Stations of the Cross maps the narrative of Christ’s passion onto the New York City landscape, using the modern cultural significance of the city’s landmarks to illustrate to universal relevance of the ancient morality story. Using three modes a performance, witnessing, processing, and speaking, the procession reinterprets both traditional meanings of the Gospel, and the significance of popular landmarks. This paper will evaluate how Pax Christi utilized this traditional ritual to address conflicts and concerns facing the world in 2006, specifically, torture, discrimination, and war. By blending traditional forms of ritual with the hyper-modern landmarks of New York City, Pax Christi blurs boundaries of time and space, politics and spirituality, self and other, whereby challenging participants to reconsider and subsequently transform norms in their faith and in society at large.
This essay examines the songs, performances, videos, public comments and magazine cover appearances of Beth Ditto, the lesbian lead singer of dance-punk band the Gossip. Drawing from queer theory and fat studies scholarship I argue that Ditto has challenged dominant conceptualizations of beauty, gender and sexuality and, in the process, constructed an alternative to conventional standards of attractiveness. Through a variety of recuperative strategies, Ditto has staged a critique of normative iterations of the body and rescued fatness from its representation as revolting and worthless. She has done this, first of all, by embracing her body in its current form, thus serving as an example of what I term “embodied corpulence.” Embodied corpulence is about taking pride in the fat body in its existing state and refusing to change, shrink or disappear. Second, Ditto has been a major figure in the struggle to reclaim “fat” as a term of positive self-identification, taking away its power to injure. Third and finally, by foregrounding her various identities as a fat lesbian femme, Ditto has brought attention to the commonalities between these identities, including the fact that they can all be contested via performative acts that disrupt their fixity and recast them as sites of strength, complexity and renewal.
Infotainment — the portmanteau of “information” and “entertainment” — is virtually renounced by traditional journalists, who believe that information and entertainment should not be mixed. Despite this resistance, infotainment is an increasingly popular and prevalent method as news networks use it to lure in viewers and advertising dollars that continue to drift to other mediums. Infotainment has many faces, the most popular being cable news talk shows in which pundits such as Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Lou Dobbs host shows that, without admitting as much, blur the lines between news and commentary. This piece explores how infotainment pundits use emotional frameworks, dialogical formats, and appeals to the “good vs. evil” mentality to attract viewers and appeal to deeply ingrained cultural discourses. Focusing particularly on the “good vs. evil” trope in infotainment works, this binary mode of thinking is central to how Americans perceive issues in the news. However, the information news pundits provide is purposely skewed, often patently false, and uses the veil of media objectivity to mask hyperbolic opinion as unbiased reporting. This piece goes on to explore how infotainment not only effects the perception of world events but also fails to reflect the diversity of America, with visible minorities largely appearing only when race-centric stories are discussed. While infotainment reveals deep tensions between journalism’s faith in objectivity, on the one hand, this essay also explores how pundits provide a dangerous “echo chamber” for audiences — encouraging and reinforcing largely under-informed opinions rather than challenging them with a truly journalistic exploration of the complexities of issues.
In the aftermath of the 1755 New England earthquake, preacher Thomas Prince and professor John Winthrop engaged in a four-month public dispute about the causes of earthquakes and the effectiveness of lightening rods. Historians have traditionally characterized their disagreement as battle between science and religion, but this paper traces the conflict instead to a fundamental difference in the two men’s personal theologies. Prince’s conception of a wrathful god and Winthrop’s belief in a more benevolent deity generated the contrasting visions for public welfare evident in their sermons, lectures, and newspaper submissions.