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Livin’ on a Muslim Prayer

Posted in: General,Islam by David Nantais on October 4, 2013

Bon Jovi came to Detroit this past summer (sans Richie Sambora) to play a stadium show at Ford Field downtown–The J. Geils Band opened.  I’ve never been a huge Bon Jovi fan, but my friend won free tickets and I was itching to see some live music so I accepted his invitation.  The show was, in many ways, spectacular.  The stage set up was unlike any I’d ever seen–the band played in front of a gigantic 1959 Buick Elektra.

Nothing gets a Detroit crowd revved up more than a four story American-made automobile!

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Ruminatio: Living with Low Cultural Capital Music

Posted in: General,Ruminatio by Tom Beaudoin on November 16, 2010

Growing up in Independence, Missouri, I lived in two different “townhouse” complexes that were federally-supported housing for families hanging on to something like the dream of their own modest space in a relatively safe place. Most of the families were mostly lower-middle-class white families, with a few firmly middle-class as well as a good number of working-class folks. The education I received while living there in the 1970s-1980s, about the values and practices of nonelite white cultures, was probably as formative as my relatively deep and positive exposure to Catholic culture as a boy, or as my later formation in academic theological cultures as an adult.

In Independence at that time, there was a rolling interaction of that fairly narrow band of socioeconomic cultures, at school, at the mall, in our housing complex, and at an annual festival in downtown Independence called Santa-Cali-Gon (commemorating the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails leading out of Independence). As classic evidence in the local lexicon for the importance of and anxieties around class, the annual festival was jokingly and derisively called the “white trash festival” by some of us who imagined that we could participate in that culture but not be touched by it. Whoever wrote this Santa-Cali-Gon entry is aware of the same class fear/identification as I was.

I was thinking of the kind of talk, music, camaraderie, ways of boy-girl interaction, and more as I thought about the recommendations people made in response to my recent post about music with “low cultural capital” today, music often presumed to be of little positive interest for theology. Whatever other class-based scoffings have been trained into me since I left Independence, I still find that I instinctively want to think about the ways in which this music is a part of people making sense of their lives, even as it symbolizes and enacts what holds people back. Placing a theological analysis of music in the context of lived life gets us away from preoccupation with a theological semantics of the songs or videos themselves, and moves us toward a curiosity about placing this music back in the lives of those who find it meaningful, available, or at the least unavoidable. Here are a few tunes from some of the groups thought of as lower on the musical food chain today. How do our relationships to these artists or songs, musically and spiritually, give us information about our social class? And what does that tell us for theological work?

*

This, anyway, was how my original draft of this post went. I spent a good deal of time sifting through videos that I wanted to add, for example, from Kid Rock and Insane Clown Posse. And I decided that someone who is better able than I am to show how these songs work culturally today should probably do this analysis. I had originally pasted up a few videos, but then could not stop wondering if abstracting them from their everyday use was contradicting the very point I was trying to make above.

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I am in Atlanta, Georgia, for the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, an annual gathering of several thousand scholars of religion from North America and around the world. Over four days, we discuss and debate new research related to almost any religion you’ve ever heard of, and many you probably never have. (Seven of us from Rock and Theology are here, as well, and the project was advanced significantly this weekend after a good meeting yesterday in conjunction with our patron, Liturgical Press. More news on that in the future.)

I heard a particularly good paper yesterday in a session sponsored by the Association of Practical Theology (disclosure: I’m on the exec committee and helped plan the session), a session that looked at what research in wise/excellent practice has to say to practical theology. Practical theology often focuses on the cultivation of ways of life and/or pastoral practices that generate, instantiate, or exemplify theological material (concepts, values, narratives), and so learning from research in other fields studying how practices (are presumed to) become stronger, more coherent, or more excellent gives something of potential importance to practical theology.

In this session, John Falcone, a doctoral student at Boston College, gave a paper on the difference that the social class of the theologian makes as theologians (as those with presumably “high cultural capital”) get removed, through practices of cultivation of educated taste, from the poor and working classes (with presumably “low cultural capital”) and are unable to theologize in ways that are drawn from or speak to persons in those social classes. He used the social theory of sociologist-philosopher Pierre Bourdieu to describe how persons are formed to have certain tastes in and through the palette of what is possible and desirable in one’s social class.

I think this is a very important line of thinking to advance.

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