Because I have a love/hate relationship with religion — i. e. I’m fascinated by it as a cultural force, but tend to abhor the ways it can and has been used as a tool of hatred and oppression — I occasionally like to read and reread religious texts. Occasionally I discover something profoundly poetic and beautiful in the text. Other times I’m touched by the simultaneous fallibility and triumph of the human spirit as it struggles valiantly to transcend the realm of the mundane. Sometimes, though, I just get pissed off. Today, a slight diversion from my research.
A Pilgramage Tuesday, Dec 20 2011
By the midpoint of my month in Barbados my research had, out of necessity, expanded beyond the scope of one man. I had originally thought to research the “cult of personality” I figured may have centered around Bussa. That was not to be the case. Aside from being more or less equated with the Emancipation Monument and being classified as a “national hero,” average Bajans didn’t seem all that concerned with him. I wasn’t exactly sure why I thought they might be. It’s not as though I walk around all day chanting “Thomas Jefferson” in a zombie-like trance.
Nelson versus Bussa Wednesday, Nov 16 2011
Alright. It occurs to me that in my previous post I forgot to include a link to the Bussa statue. This might therefore be as good a place as any to outline the differences between official history and public memory as reflected in monuments and aesthetics in Barbados. I do this by exploring two major concepts inspired by Greenblatt’s resonance and wonder: visibility, and accessibility.
The 1816 Rebellion Wednesday, Nov 9 2011
In the 1990s a Guyanan-born sculptor by the name of Karl Broodhagen unveiled his memorial to the 1816 slave rebellion (also known as Bussa’s Rebellion): a statue of a slave, crouched and with broken chains hanging from his wrists, in the middle of the JTC Ramsey Roundabout just north of Bridgetown. It was, to put it mildly, a source of controversy. Why might this be?
How to make a trip to the tropics as depressing as possible. Friday, Oct 21 2011
Dr. G on religion Friday, Sep 24 2010
“The Quakers definitely emerged from the slavery controversy with the best PR out of all the religions, it seems.” I was hunkered down under a tree across the way from the commuter rail. This was the only time both Dr. G and I had free to talk, and I wanted to disturb my fellow commuters as little as possible with this phone call.
“That’s true,” she replied. “The Quakers were early abolitionists which dovetails nicely with the narrative of their persecution in Massachusetts. But history is always much more complicated than that. Quakers weren’t persecuted everywhere.”
My interview with Dr. G of the Brown Mansion Saturday, Sep 11 2010
I’m hurring down the hill to the commuter rail and balancing my books, cellphone and sunglasses against one another. The only time Dr. G and I have to talk before she leaves on vacation is now, 5h15 on a Tuesday. I have just gotten out of work and am hauling ass to catch the next train back to Cambridge. I finally find her number and dial, hoping we’ll be able to hear one another over the constant drone of background noise on my end of the line.
Whither Horatio Alger? Monday, Aug 23 2010
You’ve probably gathered by now that a lot of my interest lies in the performance of status Issac Royall and John Brown were gave. What kind of men were they? What kind of men did they want to be perceived as? As an anthropologist ([ahem] in training) those are questions I’m obligated to get to the bottom of. The trouble is is that the answers are not exactly clear. They probably weren’t even clear to Royall and Brown.
Religioulousness. Tuesday, Aug 10 2010
It’s pretty commonly understood that religion had a rather schizophrenic relationship with slavery. Some denominations and clerics endorsed it, citing Biblical exhortations for slaves to “obey their masters.” Others were abolitionist pioneers. One finds, with almost everything, that religion’s role was contingent upon many other factors: location and economics, to name just two. The first in what will likely be multiple entries centering on religion.