Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion - Social and Rhetorical Techniques Examined - Monica R. Miller

Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion - Social and Rhetorical Techniques Examined - Monica R. Miller

3. Everything is a Cemetery: On the History Behind the ‘Ahistorical'

Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion - Social and Rhetorical Techniques Examined - Monica R. Miller

Leslie Dorrough Smith [+-]
Avila University
Dr. Dorrough Smith's most recent research focuses on the cultural significance of American Conservative Protestant rhetoric, with special emphasis on the Christian Right. Many scholars who study the Christian Right (NCR) often account for the movement's popularity and distinction by pointing to its absolutist moral positions, its religious fervor, and its selective embrace of seemingly anti-modernist platforms. Unlike other theories of conservative power that focus on the allure of such moral absolutes, Dr. Dorrough Smith's work shows how these absolutes are really not the defining quality of the movement. Rather, they are the byproduct of a certain type of rhetoric (which she calls "chaos rhetoric") that uses chaos, rather than order, imagery to induce persuasion and thereby secure social power. Her work focuses on the linguistic engineering involved in producing chaos rhetoric, and how such movements depend on the strategic manipulation of specific cultural symbols to naturalize and "sell" their political interests.

Description

In this chapter Leslie Dorrough Smith considers the social, cultural and nostalgic weight of (and given to) sites like Gettysburg Cemetery and its historical situativity to suggest that behind every “American” claim to exception, or other sorts of exceptionalism – as discussed thickly in Russell T. McCutcheon’s article “The Melancholy Empire Builder: The Life and Works of Mircea Eliade” which criticizes Mircea Eliade’s turn to the sacred – a certain sort of historical arrangement is unduly relied upon. Here, Dorrough Smith demonstrates that narratives—like those attached to and arriving in the wake of the Battle of Gettysburg—often play an integral role in the normalization of spaces and places as cohesive, particular, and significant. Such, as highlighted in McCutcheon’s essay from which Smith engages, has been true also of the legacy and work of scholars in religion such as Mircea Eliade. These two pieces together demonstrate how narratives, as much as people, places, and times, heavily rely on the (re)telling of history for their foundational social and cultural weight and significance.

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Citation

Dorrough Smith, Leslie . 3. Everything is a Cemetery: On the History Behind the ‘Ahistorical'. Claiming Identity in the Study of Religion - Social and Rhetorical Techniques Examined. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 46-51 Sep 2015. ISBN 9781781790748. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=24307. Date accessed: 20 Sep 2017 doi: 10.1558/equinox.24307. Sep 2015

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