Parsing Poetry and Public Discourse

I have been quiet over here because I have been using the summer to finish my manuscript of Rhythm: A Theological Category. I have now submitted the manuscript and expect to be entering into several rounds of revisions over the next year or so. The last weeks of developing the manuscript have involved dealing with a few interesting side issues related to rhythm in theology that I wanted to share here. In this case, I want to talk about parsing poetry and why it matters. Continue reading “Parsing Poetry and Public Discourse”


Module 3, Class 2: Strategic Deployments of Rhythm for Social Change

While the previous class in this module on rhythm in communities considered the ways in which rhythm both holds people together and keeps them apart, this class examined some of the ways in which rhythm is deployed for both for the purpose of holding people together and for the purpose of breaking up entrenched systems. These two functions are not completely separate from one another. Rhythm is often used to hold people together for the purpose of protest, and as such breaking up entrenched systems also seems to work more effectively when people unify around a common beat.

These two sides of the process of social organization are represented by two forms, particularly visible in the history of African American communities. One is the function and power of speeches, specifically those of Martin Luther King Jr. The other is the process of improvisation. Continue reading “Module 3, Class 2: Strategic Deployments of Rhythm for Social Change”

Module 3, Class 1: Rhythm: Holding People Together, Keeping People Apart

There is nowhere that the ambiguity of rhythm is more evident than through its role in communal identity-formation. It is used both as a tool of oppression, and as a tool of resistance. It both unifies people and divides communities. It both controls and interrupts. Continue reading “Module 3, Class 1: Rhythm: Holding People Together, Keeping People Apart”

Black Lives Matter is more than “just” a protest.

Last night, a passionate protest was improvised outside the shop in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Alton Sterling was shot by police. It included art, dancing, jazz and gospel music, prayer, as well as the traditional chanting and placards. Protests similar to this have occurred after many of the police shootings of African-American men, as well as the sustained “Black Lives Matter” protest. If those of us outside the black community are (and I think should be) very troubled by what is clearly a pattern of injustice and not merely isolated incidents, then it follows that we should also listen very carefully to the protests of that community. Here’s why:

These protests are not meaningless, default responses nor aberrant surges of communal feeling, but politically significant forms of resistance and identity-construction consistent with the history of the African-American struggle for freedom as conducted through rhythm. Continue reading “Black Lives Matter is more than “just” a protest.”