Recommended Readings – June, 2014

Every so often, I share some of the articles that I’ve really enjoyed recently, regardless of the subject or length or source. Feel free to check out some of my other recommendations from 2013 (February 17thJune 20thJuly 28th, & August 8th) or earlier this year (March 2014), as I try to make my suggested articles as timeless as possible – after all, as Henry David Thoreau suggested in his Life Without Principle, “Read not the Times. Read the Eternities.” Below, in no particular order, are seven articles that I highly recommend. Let me know what you think.

A cartoon by Tom Gauld, Guardian Review.

A cartoon by Tom Gauld, Guardian Review.

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Attacking Alcohol: Examining the Temperance Movement from the Early 19th Century until Prohibition

From 1920 until 1933 – beginning with the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment and ending with the ratification of the Twenty-First Amendment – the United States prohibited the sale, production, importation and transportation of alcoholic beverages. However, the journey to establish prohibition began over a century earlier.

The dry movement, also known as the temperance movement or the prohibition movement, had a wide variety of supporters: religious and rural conservatives as well as urban progressives; men as well as women, sometimes working together, sometimes separately; wealthy business owners who thought alcohol made their workers less productive as well as workers who thought alcohol was used to oppress them; white people who feared the perceived danger of black people drinking as well as black people who thought alcohol was a tool to limit their progress (Burns).

By the time of national prohibition, the temperance movement had already been working for decades to promote their cause. In this essay, I will discuss the improbable success of the temperance movement through the religious and economic changes in antebellum America, the movement’s reemergence and expansion in the 1870s, and the mostly political changes around the turn of the 20th century that helped prohibitionists achieve their ultimate goal.

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Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog 1 January 24

This is the first of a series of blogs that I will write over the semester for my class, Rhetoric of Hip-Hop, at The University of Texas at Austin.

Why is it important to have debates about hip hop? (Why should anyone who is not a hip hop fan care? Why do you care personally?)

Hip-Hop, on a personal level, isn’t something I like; it’s something I live. I’m not even sure how I was first introduced to hiphop. It seems to have always been a part of me, who I am. It’s changed the way I think, I dress, I talk, I write and the way I view the world.

As Slug of Atmosphere put it in “Party for the Fight to Write”:

As a child hip-hop made me read books
And hip-hop made me wanna be a crook
And hip-hop gave me the way and something to say

Having never had an imposing physical frame, one of my earliest realizations that words could be used jabs and uppercuts was through hiphop. I’d spend hours analyzing lyrics on RapGenius or watching rap battles on YouTube. Long before I was competing in formal academic debates, I was battling over beats in the lunchroom.

But even on a more academic and societal level, hip-hop is important in countless ways. Obviously as a multi-billion dollar industry, hip-hop has a significant economic impact. But as some rappers have noted, hip-hop is not only “about dollars” but also “about change.”

Few forms of art provide better insight into culture than hip-hop. Hip-hop, arguably much more so than most other artforms, represents a voice for a community that has historically been voiceless, poor young urban Blacks and Latinos. Hip-hop provides a window into our culture as a whole, especially regarding issues of race, gender, history, politics, religion, and more (although I unfortunately don’t have more room to elaborate here).

Because hip-hop so strongly affects so many aspects of our society – even far beyond hip-hop itself – it’s especially important to be studied and understood, even for those who aren’t necessarily rap fans.

How do evangelicals talk to, hear from, or talk about God?

Because the existence of God cannot be definitively proven, it requires faith.  Especially with the onslaught of scientific breakthroughs that have called into question some of the claims in the Bible, faith arguably requires more attention than it did in the past.  However, some surveys have found that up to 95 percent of Americans believe in some sort of a higher power, and even two-thirds of Americans think that angels and demons are active in the world. To strengthen one’s faith, as I will discuss in this essay, many people, especially evangelicals, talk to God, hear from God, and talk about God, (like many figures did in the Bible).

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Converting to the American God: The Transformation of Immigrant Religion to American Religion in Film

Before examining how a religion brought by immigrants can be ‘Americanized,’ we must first understand what a religion is.  Anthropologist Clifford Geertz has defined religion as a system of symbols that acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in people by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and presenting those conceptions with an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.  With this definition, religion as a cultural system can be seen as it is traditionally seen, as well as the less common civil religion, in which religion goes beyond spirituality and rituals into more general and secular society.

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