CC at night in March – Agrama and Abu-Lughod (Update!)

** Update ** In light of our readings and an event (see info here) that was just brought to my attention we will now be meeting at McNally Robinsons for the event at 7pm. For anyone interested we will connect after the event to go for drinks or coffee.

Our second round of Critical Conversation at Night will engage two interventions in the convoluted project of Western attempts at understanding Islam.

Hussein Ali Agrama develops the thesis that secularism “incessantly blurs together religion and politics, and that its power relies crucially upon the precariousness of the categories it establishes.”
Secularism, Sovereighty, Indeterminacy: Is Egypt a Secular or a Religious State?” [pdf]

Lila Abu-Lughod explores the limitations and perversions of Western claims to be ‘saving’, particularly, women from oppression in Afghanistan.
Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others.” [pdf]

I do not assume any sort of continuity between these two pieces only that I hope they can illuminate models of understanding not represented in dominant Western media and culture.

We will meet March 12, 7:30pm @ The Goodwill Social Club (625 Portage Ave). (See updated info above)

CC in January – Prison and Policing (Rescheduled)

This month we will read a couple of texts to help orient a conversation on the current state of prisons and policing.

We will meet Friday January 16 January 30 noon @ The Katherine Friesen Centre (940 Notre Dame Ave).

The Wedding of Workfare and Prisonfare,” Social Justice vol 38 (2011).
The Gospel or a Glock? Mennonites and the Police,” The Conrad Grebel Review vol 25 (2007).

Josiah Neufeld will help facilitate our time. His own writing and research on the topic can be found here,

Feel free to come and share insights or texts that you have found helpful as this continues to be a pressing issue.

CC in December – Cruel Optimism at Night!

This month we will be holding our first evening session of Critical Conversation. This month Melanie Dennis Unrau will be facilitating our reading of the title chapter of Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism. From the the publishers,

A relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing. Offering bold new ways of conceiving the present, Lauren Berlant describes the cruel optimism that has prevailed since the 1980s, as the social-democratic promise of the postwar period in the United States and Europe has retracted. People have remained attached to unachievable fantasies of the good life—with its promises of upward mobility, job security, political and social equality, and durable intimacy—despite evidence that liberal-capitalist societies can no longer be counted on to provide opportunities for individuals to make their lives “add up to something.”

Just in time for Christmas?

Cruel Optimism [pdf]

We will be meeting on Wednesday December 10, 8pm The Goodwill Social Club (625 Portage Ave).

CC in November – Sara Ahmed’s Phenomenology of Whiteness

In November we will be reading Sara Ahmed’s article ‘A phenomenology of whiteness’. Ahmed has written on the politics of emotion as well as queer/feminist methodologies. She posts regularly at Feminist Killjoys. Tapji Paul Garba will be facilitating the conversation.

Here is the abstract of her article,

The paper suggests that we can usefully approach whiteness through the lens of phenomenology. Whiteness could be described as an ongoing and unfinished history, which orientates bodies in specific directions, affecting how they ‘take up’ space, and what they ‘can do’. The paper considers how whiteness functions as a habit, even a bad habit, which becomes a background to social action. The paper draws on experiences of inhabiting a white world as a non-white body, and explores how whiteness becomes worldly through the noticeability of the arrival of some bodies more than others. A phenomenology of whiteness helps us to notice institutional habits; it brings what is behind to the surface in a certain way.

Sara Ahmed, “A Phenomenology of Whiteness,” Feminist Theory 8.2 (2007): 149-168.

We will be meeting Friday November 21 @ noon (Katherine Friesen Centre; 940 Notre Dame Ave)

Please spread the word to anyone you think might be interested in these events.

Also, stay tuned for an upcoming event on December 10 in the evening!


CC in October – Sex and the Single Savior

This month’s reading comes from Dale B. Martin’s collected essays Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006. We will focus on chapter 7 which is also titled ‘Sex and the Single Savior.’

In that chapter Martin explores the questions allowed and disallowed regarding Jesus and sexuality. Martin engages these questions through four interpretative strategies which he names as the popular imagination, the historical imagination, the patristic imagination, and the gay imagination.

Martin, Dale B. “Sex and the Single Savior.” In Sex and the Single Savior: Gender and Sexuality in Biblical Interpretation, 91-102. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.

A supplemental reading, ‘But the Bible Says, . . . A Catholic Reading of Romans 1′ by James Alison can be found at the following link

We will be meeting Friday October 31 @ noon (Katherine Friesen Centre; 940 Notre Dame Ave).

CC in September – Feminism and the (non)violence of God?

This Fall we will begin Critical Conversation with a text exploring the current debate in Mennonite theology around the question of God and violence. The text by J. Denny Weaver will outline the current debate as well as his own development of the question.

Susie Guenther Loewen will facilitate the session by bringing this topic into conversation with her current research in feminist thought.

J. Denny Weaver, “Response to Reflections on The Nonviolent Atonement,” The Conrad Grebel Review 27, no. 2 (Spring 2009): 39-49.

Please join us Friday September 19 @ noon (Katherine Friesen Centre; 940 Notre Dame Ave).


Summer CC! – Utopian Pedagogy

We will be gathering for one summer session of CC so let’s aim high with Utopian Pedagogy! Aiden Enns will be facilitating the conversation. Below are some thoughts and questions that guide his reading.

We are changing the day for this meeting so please note we are meeting Thursday August 21 @ noon (The Katherine Friesen Centre, 940 Notre Dame Ave)

Text – Mark Cote, Richard Day, and Greig de Peuter. “Utopian Pedagogy: Creating Radical Alternatives in the Neoliberal Age.” The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 29:317–336, 2007.

Some guiding questions from Aiden,

This topic is of interest to me as a Christian, activist-oriented editor of a quarterly magazine. I often feel like my work is removed from the cut and thrust of suffering in the world. I labour against the neoliberal order (a notion explored in the article) from the comfort of my middle-class lifestyle.

Is this enough? What is required of me? What is the responsibility of an educated, privileged person aware of their part in the structures of oppression?

Does the Christian notion of salvation pertain to the academic ally? I.e., Luther said we are both sinner and saved at the same time. Can we be part of the problem and solution at the same time as well?

How are academics like ministers/preachers in a church? For example, theoretically, pastors and preachers receive a word from God for the people. I.e., they have wisdom (truth, or liberating knowledge) for their congregation, and they are hired (and therefore obliged) to explore, descipher and transmit that word or wisdom to their parishoners. Do academics do the same for their students? For the public? For other academics?

Is it okay to pursue academic inquiry for its own sake? Isn’t it wrong to study an obscure thing purely out of interest and curiosity?