Monday, December 10, 2012

Wherever you are

In the propenultimate session of this year's Theorizing Religion we talked about identity - globalized, marginalized, queer and religious. Recalling last week's long discussion about atheism I asked what the students make of the fact that atheists now use the language of "coming out." Is it just that they feel they are an oppressed minority which must stand up and be counted? We found something a lot deeper. Melissa Wilcox uses Judith Halberstam and Lee Edelman's concept of "queer time" to understand the life narratives of the subjects of her Queer Woman and Religious Individualism. Narrative is especially important for selves which have experienced the "forced disruption of one's expected life path that often accompanies the coming out process." (177)
In queer life stories "time seems both to cycle and to meld." It's full of "I didn't know it then but..." and "I didn't have a name for that then..." and the clichéd but none the less ubiquitous "I knew I wasn't like the others." Now think about the coming-out narrative of atheists - especially those who grew up in religious settings. This discussion helped me more than the only article I've found on the subject (Jesse M. Smith's “Becoming an Atheist in America: Constructing Identity and Meaning from the Rejection of Theism,” Sociology of Religion 72:2 [2011]: 215-37). In the context of our discussion about hybrid globalized identities and how religion speaks to and for postmodern selves, it made for quite an illuminating discussion! Are we all queer now?

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