This talk explores “negative belonging” by tracing how white supremacy is taking power in southern New Jersey. It uses Stuart Hall’s work on Western myth-making to interpret both the ideological underpinnings and the material interests at play in a public “Sheepdog Seminars” training session—an event coordinated by the local prosecutor’s offices, police departments, and numerous Christian church congregations. It shows how these three distinct institutions are merging into a formidable power bloc that will have the capacity to dictate who may live and who must be shot and killed. It concludes by reflecting on ethnography’s potential role in identifying and interpreting the growing forms of white supremacy seeking to seize power across the world today.
heath pearson is assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Georgetown University. His first book, in search of El Chapo: domination, defiance, and disorder in an American prison town, is forthcoming from Duke University Press. His current book project, Streaming Man: Online Movies & the Myths of Masculinity, explores contemporary propaganda by tracing the logics of white masculinity across various online streaming platforms like Hallmark, Disney+, and HBO. His writing has also appeared in NBC News, Vice News, and The Atlantic. He can often be found following his partner through the nearest patch of woods.
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