The Podcast for Social Research, Episode 6: Interview with Gideon Lewis-Kraus

This is the fifth episode of our podcast series, “The Podcast for Social Research.” We change up the format a bit this time around and begin with Abby interviewing Gideon Lewis-Kraus about his new book, A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful. About a month later, Christine, Michael, Abby and I (Ajay) got together to pick up the subject of pilgrimage. We discuss it without either crafting a definition or simply reducing the topic to the different question of “what is religion?” We hope you enjoy the conversation that ensues! As always, please see our Notations section after the jump for some references, time stamps, asides, topics, and more.

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The Podcast for Social Research, Episode 5: Interview with Gideon Lewis-Kraus


Part I: 00:00:00 – (Music: “Stillwell Ave.” by El Diablo Robotico)

00:00:26 – Introduction, Interview with Gideon Lewis-Kraus

Gideon Lewis-Kraus. A Sense of Direction

00:01:15 – On Genre, Travel

Bruce Chatwin. In Patagonia
Bruce Chatwin. The Songlines
Geoff Dyer. Out of Sheer Rage
D.H. Lawrence. Sea and Sardinia
Rebecca West. The Fountain Overflows
El Camino del Santiago
Shikoku Henro
Redmund O’Hanlon. Into the Heart of Borneo
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
The Pilgrimage to Uman 
John Jeremiah Sullivan. Blood Horses

00:15:00 –  On Writing, Time, Tense

Tom Bissell. “I am the Star of Your Memoir”

00:21:25 – On Narrative, Transformation, Satisfaction

Victor Turner. “The Center Out There: Pilgrim’s Goal”

00:29:30 – On “Secular” Pilgrimage 

Arnold Eisen. Rethinking Modern Judaism
Orange on the Seder PlateOrange on the Seder Plate
Miriam’s Cup
The Heart Sutra

00:39:25 – On A Sense of Direction and Judaism

00:44:15 – On Exhortation, Self-Help

Nordic Walking Poles

00:49:30 – On New Work, Cats and the Internet

Cats on the Internet
Cat Videos on the Internet  
Inspirational Cats on the Internet
Maru, the Most Famous Cat on the Internet

00:53:35 – Break! (Music: “Range Life” by Pavement)

00:54:30 – Part II: On Pilgrimage

00:55:10 – On Current Goings-On at the Institute, E-reader Classroom Techniques

Classes at the Institute

00:58:25 – On Our Kickstarter Campaign, Funding, Irony

Our Kickstarter Campaign (Ongoing till May 15)
“Marxist Perspectives” and Dissent Magazine
The Brooklyn Institute in the New York Times philosophy blog
Felix Weil 

01:01:40 – On Pilgrimage, Jalal Al-e Ahmad, Ritual

Jalal Al-e Ahmad. Lost in the Crowd
Jalal Al-e Ahmad. Occidentosis
[Ed. Note: The genre of Lost in the Crowd and Al-e Ahmad’s other travel writings are at least partly (and openly) related to the nearly thousand year old tradition of the safarnameh in Persian letters.] Mark SingletonYoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice
Pankaj Mishra. “The Invention of the Hindu
Hamid Dabashi. Theology of Discontent
[Ed. Note: I should have discussed in reference to Al-e Ahmad’s Lost in the Crowd that key for Al-e Ahmad was the discovery through ritual experience of the grounding of individual ontology as only possible through social commitment.]

01:19:30 – On Ritual, Habit, Pilgrimage, Place

01:24:05 – On “Secular” Pilgrimage, Routes, Communities, Religiosity

[Ed Note: There are, of course, other ritualized activities, particularly within Shii Islam, that do deal with bodily mortification. But even there, distinctions should be drawn: the body is not being punished for its inherent sinfulness in a dualistic way, but rather the self is expressing sorrow and regret, through self-violence, that it could not/did not/perhaps does not participate in the struggle to save the Imam.]

01:29:05 – On Other Alternative Notions and Practices of Pilgrimage

Walter De Maria. The Lightning Field
Robert Smithson. Spiral Jetty
Bayreuth Festival
Getting tickets to the Bayreuth Festival  [Ed.Note: Dated, but poignant.] Talal Asad. Genealogies of Religion
Talal Asad. Formations of the Secular
Baruch Spinoza. Theologico-Political Treatise

01:33:25 – On Pilgrimage, Naming, Classification, Traditions, Material Conditions

Henry David Thoreau. Walden
Walter Benjamin. “Franz Kafka”
Max Brod. Franz Kafka
Heidegger’s Hut 
Freud Class

01:45:33 – On Time, Recent Pilgrimage, Mormonism, Critical Self-Reflection

Hill Cumorah Pagent (Palmyra, NY)
[Ed. Note: The kind of “reform” figures discussed here would be, in some sense, historically and critically, foundational. As opposed to reflexive, later reactions like Luther’s, for example.]

01:48:45 – On the Definition of Pilgrimage, Revisited

A New Yorker Cartoon God:

[Ed. Note: I am deeply embarrassed to note that my paraphrase of the Talmudic story should have referred to Rabbi Eliezer, not Rabbi Akiva.]

Deuteronomy 30:12-14: “It is not in the heavens, that you should say,’Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?’… No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.” (JPS Translation)

02:02:10 – On Knowledge and Power, Summary

Antonio Gramsci. The Prison Notebooks
Michel Foucault. The Order of Things
Franz Fanon. The Wretched of the Earth
Edward Said. Orientalism

Technical Details: Recorded on a Samson CO1U into an msi PC running the beta version of the freeware program Audacity 1.3.13 while consuming enjoyable, yet moderate, amounts of Coke Zero, Powers Gold Irish Whisky, Modelo beer, Canada Dry ginger ale, and good old-fashioned New York City tap water.

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