In Other Words

A Contextualized Dictionary to Problematize Otherness

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Keywords: Rationale and Structure

Words are always used in situated context by specific interlocutors and with specific intentions. For example, very common words can be used to discriminate and offend someone in specific contexts; conversely, even discriminatory words, when used in friendly context and with non-offensive intentions, can establish or reinforce links. Yet, this project wants to discuss words that are purposedly used to discriminate and offend specific individuals or groups in overall narratives and public discourses; moreover, such words are analyzed according to their cultural, social, historical, and political contextualization.

The aim of the analysis is to expose and deconstruct the textual and visual mechanisms of discriminating words, as well as those that turn an ordinary word into an offensive one.

Each Keyword entry is analyzed and discussed according to the following steps:

  • abstract: an abstract of about 150 words in one's native language or in a language other than English (followed by an English shortened version of 30-50 words) allows the reader to get a quick idea of what the entry is about;
  • etymology: though much too often discarded as a de-contextualized approach to the study of words, etymology offers the opportunity to open a reflection on the origins of a word. Etymology can thus allow us to start a journey within the different meanings that such a word has acquired throughout the centuries, and to visit the linguistic and cultural territories it has encountered. Knowing the origins of a word invites us to reflect on whether and how its original meaning has changed, for which purposes, under which conditions, and what it is currently mobilized for. Therefore, by tracing the trajectory of a word and its history, as well as of its contemporary application/s, not only can we critically investigate its uses and misuses, omissions, transformations, misinterpretations, but also delineate the linguistic and cultural maps of its encounters. Etymology can thus favor the creation of a militant, interdisciplinary, comparative and cross-cultural knowledge;
  • cultural specificity: even words sharing a common etymology, but belonging to different languages/cultures, often travel along different paths from the etymological to the culture-specific meaning(s);
  • problematization: from old and new media and public discourses, we bring forth examples of how a specific word is/has been used to (re)produce different forms of Otherness, asking questions as: what is this word used/mobilized for, by whom, for which purposes, in which contexts?
  • communication strategies: words perform communicative acts. A word is embedded in a certain context, in relationality with other words to create arguments that can trigger actions and reactions as well as evoke certain emotions. So, a word can be used as a rhetorical device to inform, provoke, persuade, and affect an audience through various rhetorical strategies, such as metaphor, irony, hyperbole, and personification among others;
  • subversion: this is the most creative part of the dictionary, showing how a specific word mobilized for the construction of Otherness can be recontextualized and subverted. For that purpose, we present works of art, pieces of literature, poems, films, songs, etc., choosing one or more pieces with a strong visual or formal quality that can be also recognizable by a general public;
  • discussion: the discussion is conceived as an open door looking both inwards and outwards. It aims to engage readers in personal reflections and collective discussions that go beyond the dictionary. It can be structured as a series of questions. It can follow several traces, such as reflexivity, recontextualization, interdisciplinary connections. This is also the place to discuss cross-cultural meanings - e.g., how a specific keyword is used in one’s own native language and culture. Not all these elements should be necessarily present, but this final part is meant to open further discussions.

The number of words for each keyword is between 1,500 and 2,500 words.

Though a common structure is essential for consistency across the different keywords, please note that not all keywords should necessarily comply with all the fields above