I think I’ve commented in past posts that I grew up with my English being questioned. It’s not that I couldn’t speak or write in the language; English is my first language and mother tongue. It’s that the variant of the language I spoke was not the variant of the majority around me. I spoke and in many ways still speak a mixed English with influences from South Africa, Ireland, Canada (West and East, English Speaking and French Speaking), and the US.
Categories and labels are troublesome. They create boundaries and borders, and mark who is in, who is out, who is allowed in, who is not. Yet, the persnickety conundrum we face, as BILD scholars, is how to talk about the things we talk about (e.g., identity), without imposing misrepresentative categories and labels on the individuals we engage with and the experiences they are sharing and co-constructing with us. We can’t do away with labels and categories – they are convenient and allow us the efficiency of communicating a message to others on the basis of a shared understanding of where boundaries lie. Of course, if our intended meaning is not shared, we have to be very explicit about what we are talking about. We need to think carefully about what it means to ascribe a label to others and how this could reproduce essentializing ideologies.
On February 6th, we had a conversation during our bi-weekly BILD meeting about terminology – using the kind of terminology that is in line with our understandings of the world and knowledge and what we want our research to be all about. Among other things, we went back and forth about the words “triangulation,” “data,” and “information.” As I walked down to the library, after the meeting, I tried to work through, in my head, what it is that I think about all of this. I had the feeling that I hadn’t articulated my thoughts very well, because my thoughts on the matter aren’t very organized in my own mind. It seems to me that I’ll have to articulate it at some point in an effort to explain why I’ve done, what I plan to do, and what I think doing this will allow me to know and why that knowledge is useful. I decided that I needed to write it out.