Scripting Acts of Violence: Intersectionality and the Orlando Shooting (Re-Posted)

Religon and Culture Web Forum Image

Following the horrific mass shooting in Orlando, Florida last month, I wrote a blog post for the Bulletin analyzing the initial media reactions to the shooting. That post received a lot of attention. I was pleased that my thoughts were a helpful contribution to public discussion. A few weeks ago I was approached by the editor of the University of Chicago’s Religion and Culture Web Forum about re-posting the piece. I was humbled that they wanted to share my little piece with a wider audience. The piece (with slight edits) was just posted today, so I thought I’d share it here on my own blog page. For the full article, please click the link to their Forum website (the link is also at the end of my post).

I’m considering expanding this piece into a more developed, proper academic work. So any thoughts or feedback would be welcome. There has been work on “intersectional violence” (specifically in studies of racism and by feminists scholars), but not quite the same as what I am proposing.

(Especially with regard to race studies and feminism, see Kimberle Crenshaw, “Mapping Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color,” Stanford Law Review 43.6 [1991]: 1241-99; Edward González-Tennant, “Intersectional Violence, New Media, and the 1923 Rosewood Pogrom,” Fire: The Multimedia Journal of Black Studies 1.2 [2012]:64-110; cf. Edna Keeble, Politics and Sex: Exploring the Connections between Gender, Sexuality, and the State [Toronto: Women’s Press, 2016], 110, who has a similar view of intersectional violence, linking it to systemic violence and identity politics.)

Let me know what you think.


At 2 a.m. on Sunday June 12th in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida gunshots were heard by patrons. The nightmare that they experienced did not end until 5 a.m. when police killed Omar Mateen, the alleged shooter who had been holding hostages from the club for nearly three hours. With 50 people murdered and over 50 more injured, the nightmare has only begun for many who were there, or who personally knew people at the club, or who, like myself, read about this horrific event through various media channels on Sunday morning.

When faced with acts of such brutality, people often turn to the media – or, more often these days, social media – in order to make some sense of what strikes us as senseless violence. Over the past few years I have designed and taught a course on Theorizing Religion and Violence. Although we deal with various aspects of violence, a central topic is religious terrorism (largely working through the theoretical contributions by Mark Juergensmeyer, Bruce Lincoln, and William Cavanaugh among others). The first time I taught this course, the Boston Marathon Bombing occurred. That bombing became data for my student to theorize, almost as a type of grief processing. One thing I hate about this course is that whenever I go to the news I keep finding fresh data for the course. It can be depressing to teach a course where we study how and why people murder other people.

Like with Boston, the Newtown shooting, the Aurora shooting, or the San Bernardino shooting, this weekend’s Orlando shooting evokes a series of scripts. What follows is a brief reflection that originally arose from a post I made on Facebook in response to a former colleague’s concern that, by being described as a terrorist attack in the media, the gay and Latino aspects of the Orlando shooting (though certainly mentioned in news outlets) have been obscured.  His comment got me wondering about how scripts function to direct our attention away from and toward certain arenas of public concern; specifically, in how such scripts tap symbolic or social capital for ideological and moral ends. Such discursive (re-)directing often obscures the complexity of such acts (and the reception of such acts by us, the viewer) in order to contain and control chaos – and thus transform such “chaos” into “events” that we can explain and process in moments of anger, grief, and shock. …




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