We are delighted to welcome Stacie Swain to the editorial board of the Bulletin for the Study of Religion. Over the past year, Adam Miller has been working with Matt Sheedy to oversee the daily work on our blog and we are very thankful for his hard work and dedication. Adam will be moving on to help us develop the Bulletin’s new book review section, an exciting new development at the Bulletin! In his place, Stacie has agreed to come on board to work with Matt. I believe that Stacie will bring a new and exciting perspective to the blog. I wanted to introduce Bulletin readers to Stacie and her current work.
Stacie is an MA student in Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa and currently serves as a Councillor for the North American Association for the Study of Religion (NAASR). Her interests center on interdisciplinary theories of concepts and categories such as religion, spirituality, culture, and identity, particularly in relation to politics, law, governance, states, and nations. Broadly speaking her work brings critiques of “religion” in liberal pluralism into conversation with critical scholarship on settler colonialism and indigeneity. Her current thesis work examines the incorporation of indigenous ceremonies and symbols into Canadian political, legal, and legislative contexts. In her own words, Stacie summarizes some of her current research:
I’m interested in what goes on at the interface of what we might call “two political cultures” (to use Bayart’s phrasing), in terms of interactions between those who identify as ‘Indigenous’ and others identified as ‘Canadians’, ‘settlers’, or the state. Through discourse analysis (broadly-defined), my work argues that since key events in 1990, the eagle feather has come to represent a claim to an inherent and resurgent Indigenous sovereignty that is problematic for a contemporary Canadian nation-state understood as ‘settler-colonial’. To highlight the settler-colonialism underlying Canadian sovereignty, I consider the ceremonial mace used in the House of Commons. I contrast the mace with performative statements made by Indigenous peoples by holding or presenting an eagle feather. Legal, legislative, and political contexts have become discursive occasions for the contestation of Canadian sovereignty, ones in which the state must either repress or recognize Indigenous claims to authority. At the same time, common sense understandings of religion, spirituality, secularism, and politics are the semantic matrix through which the eagle feather gets classified, or materializes. To think about how the eagle feather gets classified, I’ve performed a media survey of Canadian mainstream media between 1990-2017. The way the media construes the feather, in a sense, reveals the utility of it – in the sources that I’ve surveyed for example, it gets compared to both the Bible and the Canadian flag. This allows me to think through the ways a specifically ‘Indigenous’ sovereignty might be constructed in contrast to the sovereignty of the state.
Although she qualifies this as “a work in progress, for the record”, I think what she is doing is fascinating from a theoretical perspective on cultural and political power relations; relations situated within discursive moments of not only identity construction through symbolic and religious discourse or performance, but also counter-identity constructions in the maintenance of such relations. Her focus on indigenous and Canadian political sovereignty offers a glimpse into the political implications of “religion” (and “culture” among other identity labels) for social actors engaged in establishing normative “memory” through symbolic expressions.
As Stacie takes up the reins of her new editorial duties, I am confident that she will bring a unique perspective and dynamic energy to the blog. And I am also very grateful to Adam for not only his hard work on the blog, but also for his enthusiastic agreement to work with us in developing a new section of the Bulletin (more on this development in a future post!). The Bulletin continues to move forward as a dynamic space for theoretical, methodological, pedagogical, and professional debates and reflections on the academic study of religion.