Stuffetcetera The website of Jeremy Kearns-Watts.


Week 20: Critical Theory and the Study of Religion: Debates & Future Directions

What in your view is the relationship between the critical theories we have studied over the year and the study of religions? What do you think the future might hold for the field?

For the most part, I feel that the critical theories we have studied have only the most tenuous link to the Study of Religions. Yet as revolutionary aspects of the modern academic world, with all of their thoughts geared towards changing the way in which we think, if any field were to ignore such developments it would run the risk of being left behind. An evolutionary dinosaur in the contemporary world.

I am cynical enough to believe whole-heartedly, that the field of Study of Religions, as all other fields of discourse will basically continue, manufacturing new topics of discussion if necessary and looking back and revising old ones, purely to keep the wheels of debate and of educational institutions turning. But I hope that at some stage, those studying religion will get around to finally resolving the many misconceptions held in the wider world about the field and about religions in particular (as in different traditions) and in general (as in general). I am fed up of continuously reading piss-poor and ignorant descriptions in newspapers.

And finally, how has this course affected your own understanding of religion/ religions? How has it affected your sense of self?

In all honesty the course has not had much effect on my understandings of religion or my sense of self. It have given me multiple new questions to ask, but when it comes to my own accepted sense of being, I remain as ignorant as I have always been. This has been a long and wild ride, and I can't deny that I've enjoyed it, but I am so glad its all over.


Week 19: Feminism & Postcolonial Theory: Cartographies of Struggle

Mohanty argues that western feminist discourses based on a set of analytical presuppositions constitute a form of colonisation and thus reinforce western cultural hegemony. Do you agree? In what ways might it be possible for feminists to engage in scholarship about non-western women and to avoid the pitfalls highlighted by Mohanty?

This is the only lecture of the course that I have missed, for reasons of intense personal illness. And I must admit, at this late stage, I did not make much effort to catch up. Nobody said anything about it being a particularly edifying subject and the seminar which I was present for seemed to be rehashing a lot of what was said over the previous two weeks.

I think the main reason why feminism runs into such problems when it looks to the world is due to its relative youth as an organised discourse. In the same way western male writers suddenly realised their adorable trend of making generalities about mankind and humanity while actually referring to themselves, so western feminists now are recognising that talking about womankind probably doesn't actually do anything to describe the situations of most female humans in the world. It is something we are all guilty of.

But does it actively colonise and reinforce a hegemony of the west? Very probably I'm afraid, as long as such generalities continue in discourse at least. But it can be avoided. Simply allow these women to speak for themselves. Let everybody speak for themselves damnit and quit deciding that anyone has any right to speak for anyone else. A character in Hunter Thompson's The Rum Diary is fired from his job at the only English language paper in Puerto Rico because when commissioned with writing a short piece on native emigration, he disappeared for months and on his return handed in a fifty page article that was nothing buttranscriptions of the many reasons individual Puerto Ricans told him when he asked at the airport 'why are you leaving?' There was no editorial and no sole reason that was shared between any two émigrés. This sums up pretty well, I think, the way academia ought to be.


Week 18: Subaltern Studies: Beyond Orientalism?

In what ways do you think Spivakʼs question regarding the ability of the subaltern to ʻspeakʼ be of importance to the study of religions? How might we avoid the silencing representational practices that she highlights?

At this point in the essentially secretarial work of transcribing notes, reorganising them and finally typing them up I feel it is only fair to admit the conditions I find them in. I usually take very good notes, filled with insane interjections and using heavily stylised alphabets yes, but always legible and obscenely comprehensive. Where before this work has been fairly easy, form here on in the pages descend into half pages of incomprehensible scribbles and the most lacklustre attempts at forming actual words culminating in five pages of a thin ink line perfectly straight and placed exactly in between the pre-printed ones, on every line and every page. Here and there I can discern minuscule dots that are perhaps a tired minds brief attempts at getting some form of message across. In morse code maybe? I blame the dissertation.

Spivak criticises the tendency in the world of academia to discount the discourse of various subalterns as inferior as a result of their institutions not having the long histories enjoyed by their western counterparts. The various subjugations of peoples throughout time has now moved onto what was widely known as the third world; although I must interject here that even when I was at school, a time which feels o-so-long-ago now, they were actively discouraging the instantly prejudicial placing of countries in this unfair ranking in favour of the terms less and more economically developed countries. While the intentions are similar, the wording is definitely a lot gentler. The 'worlding' system is especially outdated when we remember that second world used to refer specifically to the USSR, and boy has that been gone for a long time.But this is way off track. Allowing the subaltern to speak is vital for the Study of Religions since so much of what we research is located and sourced in the homes of the subaltern. If we do not look there, surely we can only justify a study of Christianity and of the adoption of other traditions in the west. And local knowledge, as HSBC tells us often, is usually vital in getting any meaningful progress in the world.

Preventing the silencing of the subaltern seems to be a relatively easy problem to solve, compared to some of the major prejudices suggested elsewhere in the course. As long as they are vocal and we take an interest in the biographical details of writers it should be a simple matter to remember to read their writings. I would not advocate adopting subaltern sourced writings for the entirety of discourse, we should instead remember to read things from every culture. With everyone writing about everyone else, even if no-one is properly objective we should be able to learn what we need. Simples! [insert Meerkat here].