Thursday, June 13, 2019

Remembering death live: an analysis of live music concerts postponed after terror attacks

Abstract proposal in response to call for papers on Death and Event: Death, Remembrance, Memorialisation and the Evental. 

Remembering death live: an analysis of live music concerts postponed after terror attacks

Dr Steve Taylor

Terror disrupts the event. A tragic dimension of contemporary life involves suicide bombings that fatally disrupt live music concerts, including Paris in November 2015 and Manchester in May 2017.

While terror disrupts the event, sometimes the event experiences a resurrection. Following the bombings in Paris and Manchester, artists U2 and Ariana Grande returned in the weeks following to perform live music concerts. As entertainers, skilled in the enacting of large-scale public events, these concerts invite examination. How was terror narrated and death remembered amid life at these postponed events?

Sociologist Paul Connerton (1989) has argued for a collective autobiography in which societies make sense of the past through a bodily social memory. Taylor (2014) has applied Connerton to U2 concerts, while Taylor and Boase (2013) have considered the memorialisation of death in live entertainment. Building on these studies, the particularity of the relationship between terror and event requires analysis in order to further theorise concerts as events of collective autobiography.

The concerts of U2 and Ariana Grande will be examined, analysing video footage (Kara, 2015) of the concerts that exist in the public domain. A methodological lens is provided through Connertons’ distinction between inscription and incorporation, between what might be expected based on the standardization inherent in album production and what was performed live. This approach pays attention to lyrical changes, gestures and spoken segue, seeking the variations through which the collective bodily memory of terror, trauma and death were re-presented. Particular attention will be paid to the juxtaposition between remembering death in the context of live entertainment and how difference might be theorised given the shared experiences of communal grief and branded assertions of “One Love”.

This paper will be of value to those seeking to theorise the evental and understand meaning making in popular culture. It will also be of practical benefit to those who might sadly be required to create further public events of remembrance in the wake of terror.

Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Taylor, Steve and Liz Boase. “Public Lament,” Spiritual Complaint: The Theology and Practice of Lament, edited by MJ Bier & T Bulkeley, Pickwick Publishers, 2013, 205-227.

Taylor, Steve. “Let “us” in the sound: the transformative elements in U2′s live concert experience,” U2 Above, Across, and Beyond: Interdisciplinary Assessments, edited by S Calhoun, Lexington Books, 2014, 105-121.

Kara, Helen. Creative research methods in the social sciences: A Practical Guide, Policy Press, 2015.

Posted by steve at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

a learning community devotion as the year begins

One of the Gospel readings for this week is Mark 1:14-20 and includes the story of Jesus calling Simon, Andrew, James and John to a learning community, sharing a journey of growing together.

Since this is a text about the beginning of something, it invites us (as KCML Faculty) as we begin the year, to consider our experiences of being called, those moments in life when we sensed that God was looking at us, communicating with us, inviting us.

As we hear the text read aloud, I invite you to reflect on those moments.

  • where (geographically) where you “found”? (In the text, it is by the Sea of Galillee (1:16). Where was it for you?)
  • what was your “work”? (In the text, it was fishing (1:16) and net mending (1:19). What where you doing when you were called?)
  • what were your “fathers and hired hands” thinking? (In the text, they left their father Zebedee and the hired men (1:20). It might be an imaginative exercise, but who was watching you? What were they thinking as you set out to follow your call?)

(Let’s share these together as a team).

These three questions are carefully chosen. They are designed to locate us. First in place, in specific geographic locations. Second in our stories, the specific skills and abilities that we were honing. Third, they are social questions. They locate us in families and in cultures. They invite us to consider our genealogy, the role of ancestors (“they left father Zebedee” 1:20).

I offer this reading and these three questions for a number of reasons.

First, as the year begins, motivation can be hard. If you are like me, you might rather be on holiday, enjoying a beach, a second cup of tea at a slower pace in order to choose whether to look forward to the pleasure of a day with a book in the shade or walk the bush or book that catchup with friends. This text re-calls me, reminds me of the grace and challenge of call.

Second, to remind ourselves of who we are as a team. When we were first called geographically none of us probably imagined that we would be here at Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, serving in this way. We bring this past, our specific geographic locations, our past skills and abilities and competencies, our families and cultures. They make us who we are and we work alongside each other as humans, with these shaping experiences. We work with each other, each of us having experienced grace and challenge.

Third, we as KCML are about to welcome a new cohort of interns. Each of them will have a specific past, have been formed by specific geographies, bring prior skills and abilities and competencies, be located in families and cultures. Each of them has experienced, like us, grace of call. Each of them, like us, has said yes to the cost of discipleship. This is our privilege, as Faculty, to be working with these courageous and graced individuals.

As we begin the year, as we consider our blockcourse and the work before us, let’s pray.

Posted by steve at 08:59 AM

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Gurrumul and Paul Kelly – Amazing Grace

It seems a fitting song for today, for Holy Week, for all those caught in the shadow of human exploitation and violence.

Gurrumul and Paul Kelly – Amazing Grace from Resolution Media on Vimeo.

There is an alternative narrative, a way of being across cultures, a way of seeing even through (Gurrumul’s) darkened eyes, a way of embracing hope despite the religious violence of imposed colonisation.

Posted by steve at 09:32 AM

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

singing a new song

The lectionary Psalm for the day has twice, in the last six days, begun with the words “Sing a new song.” I used it to begin our team meeting community time last week. What new things are we seeing, that we need to “sing” in thanks to God? It opened up a rich and celebrative conversation.

Reading the words again today, it struck me that singing has different dimensions. It can be aural, the audible lifting of voice. The singing can be recorded and thus the the audible lifting of voice can be shared. The singing can also be written down as sheet music, and thus others can perform the new song for themselves. In so doing, the performance can then change, as new harmonies are added, as different speeds or mixes are incorporated. Each are ways to “sing a new song,” each allow different layers of reach, influence and release.

I used this notion of “singing a new song” to reflect back over what God has been doing in and around me in recent weeks.

First, the “singing” of the indigenous womens’ Christology project. This was aural in class last week. But through strategic use of funding, there is the hope it can be recorded. The hope is that in “singing” this indigenous song, that different contexts are freed to sing their own unique harmonies, to find confidence in their own “performance” of Jesus.

Second, the “singing” of the urban gardens presentation I did at the Urban Life together conference. This was sung on Saturday, to a group of conference participants. The conference hopes to produce a book, and so my aural “song” might well end up “recorded.” (If I can find the time).

In the meantime, some of what I said was “recorded” in bits on my website. It’s one of the reasons I blog – to sing a new song, and in a different “recorded” way than book based “recording.” During the conference, a stray conversation with another conference participant offered another “mix.” Again, I recorded this by blogging it, linking community development, missiology and urban development. In turn, it attracted some wonderful comments, which linked with flipped learning and it helped me make connections to another “mix”.

Aural, recorded, performed: the many ways that we can sing a new song.

Posted by steve at 03:46 PM

Saturday, August 23, 2014

If you’re not typing you’re not visual: Elearning practice and culture

It was meant to be a writing morning, but instead I slipped into the back of a lecture theatre at University of South Australia to hear Carolyn Haythornwaite address the topic Elearning practice and culture From experiment to mainstream. Director of the School of Library, archival and information services, University British Colombia, she argued that e-learning is a paradigm shift in practice of learning.

She talked about the way that technical changes are driving the social. The result is a society that is more participative and collective, which is bringing unavoidable pressures to bear on University classrooms. She had a lovely phrase

“a balance found in motion not stillness.” (Nardi and ODay, 1999).

She argued that for many years the lecture and the classroom have been a still place, an unchanging place, in which academics have clung for security. But with what is happening in society, the classroom is now in motion!

Not that this is easy. She described the exhaustion for teachers because we are now in “perpetual beta” and of continuously having to learn, both in regard to technology and in regard to how learners are learning.

She talked about two types of online engagement – crowd sourced or community based. Both have different ways of connecting. One tends to offer interaction that is many, small, simple. The other is complex, diverse, connected. Which type of community will e-teachers seek to create?

She had some cool visualisations. Pictures that showed that blended learning classes tend to develop weekly rhythms, the different network channels (chat, discussion boards, email) develop different types of student engagement, that the group rhythm over an entire course changes.

She had some encouragements as I reflected on our journey into blended learning as a Uniting College.

  • The need to have the IT group within the teaching department rather than separate (which we have done at Uniting College)
  • Forget perfection. Build it as you go. You never should have your e-learning space all packaged at start. Rather you should grow it organically as you go.
  • You get used to it. That after a few years of “perpetual beta” change, you suddenly realise you are an e-teacher.

She asked some fresh questions:

  • How to orientate students in the social skills needed to learn online in community?
  • How to understand the multiple roles of the e-teacher – as social presence but also teaching presence and also cognitive presence?
  • How to understand the potential of students to themselves become teachers in e-learning spaces? (Efacilitator, braider, accomplished fellows, learner-leaders).

So, not a writing day, but a rich and thought provoking chance to reflect on all the blended learning changes occurring at Uniting College.

Posted by steve at 12:16 AM

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Guerilla grafting as sign of new heaven, new earth?

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:1-2

So is this – guerilla grafting- a sign? Or simply acts of vandalism by a romantic few?

For the full story, go here

Posted by steve at 10:42 PM

Monday, May 14, 2012

A theology for the ‘wild things’

I want to place two “life moments” side by side, in order to help me reflect on the place of a theology of ‘wild things.’

During the last few months, I’ve been part of a religious group exploring the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience. The list is such a positive, life-affirming list and the resources have been challenging and helpful.

During the last week, Maurice Sendak, the writer of “Where the wild things” died. In memory, on the spur of the moment, on Saturday evening, we invited friends to mark his passing by watching the movie, “Where the wild things are.”

We missed it when it came out. It seemed an appropriate way to mark a man who had such an interesting ethos to ponder — “I like interesting people and kids are really interesting people.” And who wrote a book about a child and the ‘wild things’ that include fear, anger, grief. “Wild things” which Max, needed to learn how to live with, yet also “wild things” that made him a “really interesting” kid.

Which got me thinking about a theology in the ‘wild things.’ How, when, where, do communities of faith ponder not only the “fruits of the Spirit”, but the deeper emotions that make us human: anger, sorrow, denial, betrayal?

What about sermon series on these?

I mean, they were all felt, or experienced by Jesus. (See for example, some of my thinking/feeling from last year on the feelings of Jesus. And here). So Christianly, we should have plenty of resources. Often the emotions are tucked into Holy Week. (And part of what makes it so exhausting.) Watching “Where the Wild Things” are made me wonder if we need other places, beside Holy Week, in which to explore these emotions theologically?

Posted by steve at 07:07 PM

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The durability of church in a culture of change

1 – I got an iPad a few weeks ago. In order to transfer files between my Mac and the IPad, I joined Iwork. Only to get an email saying the Iwork I joined was a beta programme, was going to cease soon. So if I wanted to retain the files, I’d need to download them.

2 – Swinton and Mowat, in their wonderfully helpful Practical Theology and Qualitative Research Methods mention an important computer programme for analysing qualitative data. A search of the web indicates the programme is no more. Probably brought out by a competitor.

3 – According to an article today in Advertiser, over 50% of restuarants in Australia have closed since 2007. To quote

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show only 51.7 per cent of accommodation and food services businesses survived the full four years from June 2007 to June 2011.

In sum, we live in a culture of overwhelming change. Which seems to say something interesting about church – where week by week, year by year – worship and mission continue. I go to lots of conferences that express concern about the health of the church. And missiologically, I’m not convinced that durability is the main aim.

Yet the fact remains, that when placed alongside changes in technology, computer software and restuarants, church remains a remarkably durable body.

Posted by steve at 11:22 PM

Friday, March 09, 2012

inking the stations of the cross

This takes the Stations of the Cross to a whole new level:

A pastor of a Montrose-area church recently challenged members of his congregation to live out their faith in an atypical way by getting tattoos that represent different Stations of the Cross, images of Christ’s journey from condemnation to resurrection. (Full story here)

Tattoing the stations of the cross on one’s person! (Lots of pictures here)

The church’s artist-in-residence, Scott Erickson, designed 10 distinct Stations of the Cross tattoos and as part of Lent, the church were challenged to chose one of the tattoos (all the designs are here). “The tendency we have as Christians is to skip past Jesus’ suffering. Not only do tattoos come with a bit of suffering, they are also an art form that has not fully been embraced.” (here) More than 50 folk decided to participate.

Here’s a radio station interview with the Pastor, Chris Seay.

Posted by steve at 08:42 PM

Friday, July 29, 2011

This is my body: what elements are essential in indigenous aboriginal communion?

I am on a research quest:

What are the elements used in indigenous aboriginal (Australian) communion? Is it bread made from wheat based flour? Or does it involve any indigenous food products? And what was the theology – specifically the initial theology – that shapes the elements?

When I asked the ACD librarian, she looked suitably intrigued and impressed. And then said she needed some time to think, and suggested I come back on Tuesday.

Why my question? Well, I am working on a paper for a conference in early 2012, “Story Weaving: Colonial Contexts and Postcolonial Theology

A number of thinkers have suggested that the eucharist is a key resource for living both Christianly and humanly in a post-colonial world. These include William Cavanaugh in Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire and Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ (Challenges in Contemporary Theology). The argument is that the colonial notions of global and local, universal and particular, are fundamentally disrupted in the eucharist. A similar, but even more tightly focused argument has been offered by John McDowell, in his exploration of the Narrative of Institution in 1 Corinthians 11 (“Feastings in God at Midnight: Theology and the Globalised Present,” Pacifica 23 (October 1010)).

This argument, that the eucharist is a key resource for a post-colonial world, stands in striking contrast to an example by Susan Dworkin in The Viking in the Wheat Field: A Scientist’s Struggle to Preserve the World’s Harvest. She notes that when the Catholic church arrived (colonised) South America, they brought the belief that in Christianity, wheat flour rather than the (indigenous) corn flour could be used to bake communion wafers. In other words, in practice, the eucharist becomes complicit in processes of colonisation, rather than a key resource in resisting globalisation.

What is intriguing is that Dworkin’s next paragraph, however, provide an example of a way in which colonisation can be deconstructed. She describes how in order to provide such colonial bread, wheat needed to be imported. It was grown around local churches. It self-seeded. Through natural processes of selection, the wheat that survived developed genes more uniquely adapted to local environments.

In the late 20th century, scientists realised that such wheat might have enormous potential in safe guarding food production. They began to search through isolated churches in Mexico, seeking genetic material, plants that had adapted and evolved. In other words, what was originally imported wheat was now highly prized indigenous wheat.

This raises a fascinating set of questions, not only around ecclesiology, eucharist and the Narrative of Institution, but around the very elements. What should constitute the very body of Christ? How is it’s composition, complicit in, or resistant to, processes of colonisation?

Hence my research question in the library this morning. Here in Australia, what communion elements did indigenous Aboriginal cultures employ? And was the underlying theology a colonial imposition? And how does this disrupt, or endorse, the work of Cavanaugh and McDowell? And how might the resultant practices, even if unintentional, contribute toward something that might in fact be a unique emerging indigenous gift for a hungry world?

So, I’d be grateful if any readers, especially Australian readers, might suggest any research leads. Because indigenous Aboriginal culture is wide and varied. And because both I and my librarian suspect that the search will be less that straightforward, but mighty, mighty interesting.

Posted by steve at 01:06 PM

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Well: a project in which reading groups enhance mental health

the “pilot found participants felt more relaxed and confident after attending the groups. Those working with dementia patients found their ability to recall and communicate had improved, while people with depression were invigorated by the social contact.” (Between the lines, Suzy Freeman-Greene, March 14, 2011

Fascinating article in The Age on the use of books in working with folk who have mental health challenges. It’s called bibliotherapy and involves the use of literature in a healing way.

It made a number of links for me. First, to a book I mentioned last year (creativity, spirituality and mental health), research on the power of spirituality and Biblical storytelling in enhancing mental health. Second, our recent Masters of Ministry class, in which a participant led us in an exploration of the relationship between depression and St John of the Cross’s Dark night of the Soul. Again this link between spirituality, words well chosen and mental health.

The article provides some practical pointers
- choosing the right texts is crucial, stories that allow reflection on life experiences
- the tone is gentle, not confronting.
- the need to create a safe group.
- part of the plan is to help people unpick difficult feelings and just sit with them.

For more on spirituality and mental health:
Downs Syndrome at Christmas here; chapter by chapter reviews of Amos Yong’s Theology and disability, go here; resources for rituals in all life here; rituals in the dark places here, another resource called Sense making faith (here).

Posted by steve at 11:45 AM

Monday, January 17, 2011

When I am in doubt: a poem by Glenn Colquhoun

Looking for some summer reading, I re-dipped into Glen Colquhoun’s Playing God. Glenn is a doctor by day and a poet by night. He writes as a Pakeha (New Zealand born of Anglo-descent), but with a close relationship to Maori culture. He has written a number of books of both poetry and of children’s stories.

Playing God won the Reader Choice award at the 2003 Montana Book award and went on to become the only poetry book in New Zealand to sell platinium. The poems offer a human and compassionate account of being a caring professional. I kept making links between the caring side of being a doctor, and the caring side of being a minister, between the craft of poetry and the craft of leadership, which was occupying me back in December.

Here’s one, on the appearance of confidence and the humanity of doubt, that continues to sit with me.

When I am in doubt
I talk to surgeons.
I know they will know what to do.

They seem so sure.

Once I talked to a surgeon.
He said that when he is in doubt
He talks to priests.
Priests will know what to do.

Priests seem so sure.

Once I talked to a priest.
He said that when he is in doubt
He talks to God.
God will know what to do.

God seems so sure.

Once I talked to God.
He said that when he is in doubt
He thinks of me.
He says I will know what to do.

I seems so sure.

By Glenn Colquhoun, in Playing God

Posted by steve at 09:39 AM

Monday, December 20, 2010

commercialism at Christmas? An ancient story worth pondering

A world-denying Jew heard the call to asceticism. He thought it a part of the commandments that he must do without good food, good wine, and the company of good women and friends in general. He took no place at their festive tables; he heard no good music and did without great art. All of this he did with an eye on the promise of paradise for the renouncer.

He died. He did indeed find himself in paradise.

But three days later, they threw him out because he understood nothing of what was going on.

Posted by steve at 03:19 PM

Saturday, November 13, 2010

when do you get to old to be part of God’s mission?

I’m off to the cricket today. Not just any cricket, but to the historic Adelaide Oval. For years I’ve listened over hot Kiwi summers to the radio crackle with updates of cricket exploits from the historic Oval. New Zealand chasing down 290+ back in the 80s, Warne bullying the English more recently. Today’s the last day of England vs South Australia, warm up match for the Ashes and I sense a day of cricket relaxation calling.

It’s also the unveiling of the new Western stand (for more see here) and this was being discussed on the radio yesterday. It included mention of special seating. Best seats in the new Western stand. For who? Not for great players or for great sponsors. Rather for those who have been members for more than 50 years.

It made me reflect on how the church treats those who have been members for over 50 years? In the Kingdom, should loyalty be honoured? So much talk of the future and in doing so, what place for the past?

I preached at an older church a few weeks ago, invited to speak on mission. Many present would have been members for over 50 years. I wondered how appropriate would be my message. Then I thought of Anna and Simeon in Luke 2. Advancing in age, but still finding a place in God’s mission. Is there a time when you retire in the church from mission? What is the mission role for an 85 year old in God’s Kingdom?

Between deliveries, I will contemplate such questions today at Adelaide Oval. And if you, my blog readers, have stories of how you have seen churches invite those over the age of 75 into meaningful mission, I would love to hear them.

Posted by steve at 11:03 AM