Re: Don't give me words, lasting through time, give me no rhyme, show me!

Ed Lotto (eel2@Lehigh.EDU)
Wed, 26 Mar 1997 14:29:17 -0600

In reading through all the candidates for words people don't like, it occurs
to me that part of the problem with these words is that they all carry a lot
of history or context. This thought came to me when someone nominated "reify"
and asked if there weren't some simple way of saying that. After thinking
about that for a while, it seemed to me that the word was useful in the
context in which it was developed, and really meant a lot more than any other
simple word might mean. The same goes for "problematize." It doesn't really
mean make into a problem or think about the problems in the term. The term
carries with it the assumption that certain words and practices hide away the
cultural work they do behind a screen of naturalism. Thus, before
feminism--and perhaps even now in our enlightened days--it would be useful to
problematize the idea that women belong in the home, or the idea that used to
be held, and still is to a disgraceful degree, that African Americans are not
intellectually equivalent to whites. Now to problematize that last one means
to figure out who benefits from the belief, look at how it is upheld, consider
the questions the belief keeps from asking, and a whole bunch of other useful
work. I am not sure we can say there is another word that will do the work of
problematize in that situation.

Ed Lotto



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