When the skies above were not yet named
Nor earth below pronounced by name,
Apsu, the first one, their begetter,
And maker Tiamat, who bore them all,
Had mixed their waters together,
But had not formed pastures, nor discovered reed-beds;
When yet no gods were manifest,
Nor names pronounced, nor destinies decreed,
Then gods were born within them.
To take people in familiar situations innocently is to live without suspicion. It is to read people literally, to take their behavior as unproblematic, as harmless. To do a literal reading of texts (of what people say and do in their ordinary life) is not, of course, to repudiate figurative language; it is to be so familiar with the relevant grammar that one is unconcerned with the need to fix meaning. On the other hand, to ask suspiciously about the real meaning of the verbal and behavioral signs displayed by people one knows is to enter into the world of symbolic interpretation. And while hermeneutics doesn’t necessarily spring from hostile suspicion, it always presupposes that what appears on the surface is not the truth and seeks to control what lies beneath. Through interpretation, it converts absences into signs.
Source: On Suicide Bombing (The Wellek Library Lectures).
Also, see Asad’s earlier talk on Thinking about Religion, Secularism and Politics in UC Berkeley’s Conversation with History, here.
Moving from a metaphor of space, Stanford’s The Center for Internet and Society (CIS) recently explores the idea of moving toward metaphor tool, that is information technology as a tool instead of (cyber)space, in a series of articles. The first article examine the possibility of switching metaphor, entitled Tool Without a Handle, Read More