woensdag 27 mei 2015

From Absences to Spongy terms

Last time we set out to walk in Abcoude. We discussed 'absences', while great weather, an inspiring atmosphere and a beautiful landscape were present among and all around us. We would like to thank those who were present for your valuable contributions. Also, We would like to invite to our next edition on June 5th (from 13:00 o’clock until early evening, depending on the chosen destination).

The theme of the seminar on 5. June will be 'Spongy terms':

The words that as social scientists we work with may, in the course of long years and as they move between discourses, come to absorb ever more meanings. They may become ‘spongy terms’. Take examples such as care; body; health; but also power; culture; local; global; or empirical and theory.

When to avoid such terms as they have become all too fluid, gassy even, so that they come to evaporate? When to revitalise them? Throwing away – avoiding – a term sounds fine, but where to find other words, and don’t they have similar problems? And revitalising a term sounds fine as well, but how to do so – by attending to all its layers and meanings at the same time – or by just carving out a single, simple definition, sticking to it, and hoping you can master your text and your readers?

And the problem is not just confined to conversations between academics. There is also the traveling of terms between academia and informants. When to go along with the ways in which your informants use a spongy term – when to avoid using this term yourself, because your informants use it already (in another meaning) – when to work hard to reshape, push and pull, craft, invent and invert, terms and their meanings – as you think this might be good to do, a possible contribution?

And now for the walking seminar questions: what are the spongy terms that you come across in your work? Which ones bother you? What are so far your tactics in relation to them? What, in this respect, would you like to improve on? How might you want to do this?

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