Re: unusual language [postmodernism]

Jeffrey R Galin (galin+@PITT.EDU)
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 09:28:06 -0400

On Thu, 10 Oct 1996, Nick Carbone wrote:

Much good stuff edited out . . . > > I guess I don't want to surrender
elite to the perjorative it is so often > put. It's a lovely word that
suggests both pride and understanding, > learning and teaching, that I
associate with scholar/teachers at their > best, who do not sacrifice one
for the other. > Well Nick, perhaps the issue here is semantic, but
perhaps too it ties into the set of conversations we had a few weeks ago
that initiated the Interversity listserv. I understand your desire to
recooperate "elite" as institutional excellence. In the competitive world
of academia, being part of an elite group secures identity, quality of
producation, and instills commitment. Unfortunately, the word carries
with it exclusionary connotations, especially in the form of elitist.
Elite, like race, sex, or class, by themsevles are used to signify a wide
range of concerns, some constructive and other destructive. Racist,
sexist, and classist, however, carry only negative connotations, as far as
I can tell. I would argue that elitist follows similarly. The reason why
I would argue this is the case involves agency. That is, for example, we
can consider rhetnet a list for elite doers in the field of computers and
compostion, but as soon as we become elitist, we actively work to exclude
those who might otherwise want to join our select club.
I use this list as an example not to suggest that it is elitist.
Eric seems to have worked hard to provide a forum that invites all
interested to participate. But I use it to demonstrate how the word
functions in my eyes.
Again, I turn back to my original claim. When language,
policies, or standards (like canons) are used intentionally to exclude,
they are elitist. This is not a good thing.


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