"The Privilege of Being Banal" by Elayne Oliphant
Thursay, January 20th, 2022
2:00 - 4:00 pm
The Privilege of Being Banal: Art, Secularism, and Catholicism in Paris (Chicago, 2021) uses the concept of “banality” to explore how the monumental presence of Catholicism is able to move between Paris’s background and foreground without appearing threatening. Rather a sign of weakness, Catholicism’s banality is an expression of its Catholicism’s privilege in the Parisian landscape. It has, moreover, effaced a number of violent histories and alternate trajectories, as it undergirds Catholicism’s circulation in non-religious sites such as museums, corporate spaces, and political debates. The book’s aim is to unravel the contradictions of religion and secularism and, in the process, show how aesthetics and politics come together in contemporary France to foster the kind of banality that Hannah Arendt warned against: the incapacity to take on another person’s experience of the world.
Elayne Oliphant is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies at New York University. She is interested in the tenacity of white, Christian privilege in the West and has explored its reproduction through architectural forms, aesthetics, museums, and contemporary art. She has recently begun a new research project focused on practices that offer alternatives to capitalism by way of foregrounding debts and obligations, as opposed to freedom.
The format of these events will include a brief introduction by an advanced graduate student, foregrounding the themes of Holy Infrastructures in relation to the respective ethnography, followed by a brief presentation by the author. General discussion and question-answer period to follow.
Since these are in-conversation events we ask that attendees read the respective ethnographies or part of them, which can be found in the University of Toronto online catalogue.