Rooting Identity

Identifying Roots - Alex Haley and the Anthropology of Scriptures - Richard W. Newton, Jr.

Richard W. Newton, Jr. [+-]
University of Alabama
Richard W. Newton, Jr. is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama. His research examines the making of social difference in light of the anthropology of scriptures. He also curates the teacher-scholar multimedia resource, Sowing the Seed: Fruitful Conversations in Religion, Culture, and Teaching (


Identifying Roots ends by recasting the employ of “roots” in discussions of identity politics. Even if rhizomes are the best way illustrate knowledge production, critical scholars must grant that there are some trees of signification that appear to orient the signifier rather than the other way around. The signs and significance that appear to impress upon their own meaning is what Bourdieu is pointing to with his tracing of the doxological features of a habitus. This is the discourse that we can embolden with scriptures—people's unexamined grasping for roots in a rhizomatic world. In a sphere of signification, there still persist expressions that impress revolutionary effects on individuals and societies. Following DeCerteau, it is in this vain that we identify scriptures. They are not about set apart signs but the signs we say set us apart, not just the texts we read but the texts that read us back. In Haley’s words, scriptures are the “source-places” that enable us to make difference and make a difference in the world. The anthropology of scriptures attends to these concerns, offering a language to signify humans’ operational acts of identification.

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Newton, Richard. Rooting Identity. Identifying Roots - Alex Haley and the Anthropology of Scriptures. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2020. ISBN 9781781795477. Date accessed: 29 Mar 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.31162. Oct 2020

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