Friday, October 09, 2015

Let's pretend

The third feature intrinsic to practice is a fundamental 'misrecognition' of what it is doing, a misrecognition of its limits and constraints, and of the relationship between its ends and its means. An appreciation of the dynamics of misrecognition as such goes back to the Marxist argument that a society could not exist "unless it disguised to itself the real basis of that existence." However, the idea has been developed in a variety of ways—in the notion of aporia developed by Jacques Derrida, in Althusser's notion of "a sighting in an oversight," or in Paul DeMan's discussion of "blindness and insight."

Bourdieu provides a clear illustration of this aspect of practice by reexamining the dynamics of gift exchange. To work effectively, the practice of traditional gift-giving presupposes a "deliberate oversight" of the "fake circulation of fake coin" which makes up symbolic exchange. What is not seen by those involved is that which objective analysis takes to be the whole explanation of the exchange, namely, a reciprocal swapping of items with no intrinsic value. Misrecognition is what "enables the gift or counter-gift to be seen and experienced as an inaugural act of generosity." What is experienced in gift-giving is the voluntary, irreversible, delayed, and strategic play of gift and countergift; it is the experience of these dimensions that actually establishes the value of the objects and the gestures. The context of practice, Bourdieu stresses, is never clear cut but full of indeterminacy, ambiguities, and equivocations. Hence, 'theoretical reconstruction,' as a description in terms of general laws, removes the very conditions that afford misrecognition and the social efficacy of gift exchange. By abstracting the act from its temporal situation and reducing its convoluted strategies to a set of reversible structures, theoretical analysis misses the real dynamics of practice.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 82–83

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Say what?

As a second feature of human activity, practice is inherently strategic, manipulative, and expedient. The logic of practice (and there is a logic of sorts) is not that of an intellectualist logic, argues Bourdieu. Practice, as real activity in time, by its very nature dodges the relations of intellectualist logic and excludes the questions asked by the analyst. Its practical or instrumental logic is strategic and economic in that it remains as implicit and rudimentary as possible. Practice, therefore, is a ceaseless play of situationally effective schemes, tactics, and strategies—"the intentionless invention of regulated improvisation."— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 82

<idle musing>
I think I understand what she's saying here, but I might need to read it a few more times and digest it...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

That dratted Sitz im Leben thing again...

First, human activity is situational, which is to say that much of what is important to it cannot be grasped outside of the specific context in which it occurs. When abstracted from its immediate context, an activity is not quite the same activity. Practice may embody determinative influences deriving from other situations, but practice is not the mere expression or effect of these influences. Indeed, it can be said that a focus on the act itself renders these 'influences' (structures or sources) nonexistent except insofar as they exist within the act itself.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 81

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Good definition

I will use the term 'ritualization' to draw attention to the way in which certain social actions strategically distinguish themselves in relation to other actions. In a very preliminary sense, ritualization is a way of acting that is designed and orchestrated to distinguish and privilege what is being done in comparison to other, usually more quotidian, activities. As such, ritualization is a matter of various culturally specific strategies for setting some activities off from others, for creating and privileging a qualitative distinction between the 'sacred' and the 'profane,' and for ascribing such distinctions to realities thought to transcend the powers of human actors.— Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, page 74

<idle musing>
That's a good start; it definitely shows why these particular actions are different than normal actions. Let's see where she goes with it...
</idle musing>

Monday, October 05, 2015

What a deal!

I'm in the process of sending this BookNews e-mail. Thought those of you not subscribed would like to know, too. And why aren't you subscribed? : )
October is Theological Libraries month and Eisenbrauns wants your theological library to celebrate by saving cash. We're offering all theological libraries a one-time chance to save 30% on everything we have in stock. Yes, everything in stock! All the library needs to do to take advantage of the sale is put ATLA in the purchase order field when they order from our web site. The discount will be applied by our customer service reps before the order ships. Remember though, this is for libraries only. Let your favorite theological librarian know!

Shame-based theology

Many evangelicals and progressives today are steamed up about their opportunity to change the world and to be significant and to do something important. For all the “good” this movement can do and is doing, I contend that, far more important, it is largely a shame-based movement masking a shallow gospel and inept grasp of what kingdom means in the Bible. One wonders at times if kingdom theology for many is religious language used to baptize what to most other observers is merely good actions done by decent people for the common good. Is kingdom language, then, the attempt to make something wholly secular somehow sacred?— Kingdom Conspiracy, page 254

<idle musing>
Ouch! Scot doesn't mince words, does he? That's the final post from this book, which took the better part of the summer to get through. Next up? I'm not sure; I haven't had much time to read this summer, between the cabins (which are still extremely busy—we've had a very warm September), Eisenbrauns, and copyediting. But I'll probably start excerpting from Catherine Bell, ; Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. So stay tuned.

By the way, Roger Olson has a good push-back today on Scot's book. Well worth you time.
</idle musing>

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Interesting Greek note

I'm editing a Greek Discourse Handbook right now on 1 Thessalonians. In the course of reading through it, I noticed that the Greek word ἀδελφοί (adelphoi, brothers/sisters/fellow believers) seems to occur more frequently than normal. So, I started Accordance and did a search on the inflected form.
Sure enough, as you can see from the above chart, the density is much higher in 1 Thessalonians than any other books than James and 2 Thessalonians. Wonder what's going on here? Any ideas?

Personally, I wonder if it might be that Paul is trying to reassure the Thessalonians that even though he got driven out of town and hasn't been able to revisit them, they are still dear to him—family even.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Go to church?

[W]hen I hear them make “church” something one goes “into” I cringe. Part of our problem here is that the word “church” has become a building or an institution and has lost its cosmic shape from the Bible (ever read Colossians and Ephesians?!)…— Kingdom Conspiracy, page 232

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! Have you been following Roger Olson's review? He's sympathetic to Scot's view—very sympathetic. But, and here's where I'm at as well, what about the "dones?" What about the ones who have become disillusioned with church as it is done in the U.S.? Where is it more God and Country, or God and Self, or God and whatever. The whatever is anything but Jesus; A.W. Tozer in Pursuit of God says that whatever comes after the and is a distraction from God. I agree. And that's where the vast majority (in my experience over 43 years of being a Christian) of churches land.

There's something wrong when a church's web site features the U.S. flag in a prominent position. There's something wrong when a church's web site brags about their pastor/teacher, what have you. There's something wrong when a church's web site promotes a particular political view (right or left!).

Lord, purify your church! And start with me!
</idle musing>