Looking for a new university...
Now that my contract position with Korea University is nearing its end, I've gone on the job market, which means undergoing interviews over this break, even on the day after Christmas -- and at a Christian university, at that! In England, that day's known as Boxing Day, in honor of St. Pugnacious, I suppose, so I expect to be a bit feisty.
Some people don't like interviews, but I enjoy them. I wouldn't say that I do especially well at them, for I'm the sort of individual who likes to ponder an uncomfortably long time before responding to a serious question -- and interviews are serious, right? -- so I might sit and think for ten whole seconds before I speak ... which tends to make folks a tiny bit nervous:
"Didn't he hear us?" they're thinking. "Or is he insane?"That always gets some nervous smiles. I think that they're in awe of my prescience. But to return to my point ... I like interviews because for a brief time, I get to feel important. People are asking me earnest questions and actually listening to what I say.
"Of course I hear you!" I exclaim. "I can even hear your thoughts!"
Be honest, how often does that actually happen?
Anyway, because I'm again job-hunting, I'm casting my net broadly in the hope of netting several offers. So, I'm even returning to offprints of articles that I wrote years ago for religious studies in the probably vain hope that I'll land a position in that area.
So for your disinterest, here's a ten-year-old passage from my article "Society as Cosmos: Mary Douglas's Analysis of How Societies 'Naturalize' Themselves," which I wrote for Australian Folklore: A Yearly Journal in Folklore Studies (Journal No. 12, August 1997), reviewing the 1996 edition of Mary Douglas's Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology, which is a work on cultural anthropology, by the way, not some New Agey encounter with astrophysics:
A example of the clash of elaborated code with restricted code occurs in a passage from A. S. Byatt's novel Babel Tower, in which a middle-class intellectual Frederica Potter has married an upper-class, landed-gentry businessman Nigel Reiver. Their marriage is a linguistic failure:I suspect that a lot of us Westerners working in Korea feel rather like foreign 'Fredericas' confronted by Korean 'Nigels,' for we generally come from 'personal' cultures emphasizing 'the autonomy and unique value of the individual,' whereas Korea is a 'positional' culture emphasizing 'ascribed role categories.'
"[Nigel] is not a verbal animal .... [W]hat he says ... is dictated by the glaze of language that slides over and obscures the surface of the world ..., a language ... quite sure [of] what certain things are, a man, a woman, a girl, a mother, a duty .... [Such l]anguage ... is for keeping things ... in their places." (A. S. Byatt, Babel Tower (Chatto and Windus, London: 1996), pp. 38-39)
Nigel speaks the restricted linguistic code characteristic of a 'positional' family (Douglas, p. 24), one in which the members have 'ascribed role categories' (Douglas, p. 24) that determine identity and duty:
"If ... [one] asks 'Why must I do this?' the answer is in terms of relative position. Because I said so (hierarchy). Because you're a boy (sex role). Because children always do (age status). Because you're the oldest (seniority)." (Douglas, p. 24)
Frederica, however, comes from a 'personal' family (Douglas, p. 27), one in which 'the autonomy and unique value of the individual' is emphasized (Douglas, p. 27). Thus Frederica's complaint at her ascribed role:
"'You can't see me, you've no idea who I am, I am someone, I was someone. I am someone, someone nobody ever sees anymore --'" (Byatt, p. 38)
Frederica no longer experiences herself as a unique individual with value of her own; instead, any value that she now has is due solely to her ascribed role.
But you're wondering what all this has to do with my search for a job teaching religious studies since the above passage sounds more like cultural anthropology applied to a critical analysis of literature. Briefly put, the larger article deals much more with religion than literature, and Mary Douglas is a big scholar in the field of comparative religion and the cultural analysis of religious systems, especially concerning things like the holy, the common, the impure, and the pure.
All of which are dear to my heartfelt yearning for learning...