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This Glossary has important, useful, and interesting terms that have some kind of relationship to my scholarly interests. If you see a term that needs clarification or if you know of a better definition, please let me know. Likewise, if a term should be on this list and isn’t, let me know. Thanks for visiting.


  • acculturation- process of becoming part of a culture – this assimilation is frequently required for various economic, political, and social levels of acceptance. It also involves giving up some of who you are. 
  • actors- a term for individual people and the role they play in everyday life, be it on a small or large scale – “historical actors” are people living their life, all making history. This also helps recognize the role of acting in our day-to-day activities. See dramaturgy below. 
  • ad-hominem- method used in discussions where one person attacks a person or uses emotions instead of logic. 
  • agency- More and more, historians recognize that every one has agency – even if that agency is just the will to live in the face of extreme violence, physically or psychologically. Agency is a term historians use to refer to the control one has or asserts over their own situation. It is a way for people to resist authority/majority in many cases. For example, enslaved Blacks asserted their agency by forming what sociologists call “fictive kin” networks (families of friends) or by deliberately breaking tools. This approach is similar to looking at bottom-up history in terms of specifically looking at everyday people, but a person looking at agency could look at the agency of all parties.
  • aggressive ignorance- is several steps beyond willful ignorance (not wanting to know something) where a person not only does not want to learn, but seemingly hates learning, hates to be challenged, hates the idea of formal knowledge outside of their religious and/or cultural worldviews, and does such to maintain a sense of superiority. 
  • American Studies- an economic, historical, political, social approach to understanding the United States. This multidisciplinary, heavy theoretical approach uses film, novels, more traditional historical sources, and anything else to understand society, particularly power dynamics.
  • andragogy- the study and theory of teaching adults. More here.
  • androgynous- defined differently depending on the context but in a nutshell refers to someone who is neither “male” or “female” or is both “male” and “female” per se. Those who are “androgynous” may have ambiguous gendered expressions. From Virginia Woolf’s perspective (see the quote below my name at the top), an androgynous person is free and free from stereotypes, can think in both “male” and “female” ways, and is able to live honestly and truly see the world. Similar to Genderqueer. 
  • appropriation (also called Columbusing)- the act of taking credit for something developed elsewhere and/or by a different group, or the act of taking on a minority identity for profit, especially which such minority would not be welcome. 
  • architecture- any shaped tool or shelter. 
  • attributions- A slightly different way of looking at agency is by looking at attributions–a psychological concept. Attributions are the whos and whats to which people attribute their actions. These are internal (feelings, traits, abilities, something about the person’s core self) or external/situational (starts on the outside); controllable or not controllable; and either changeable or not changeable.



  • backdrop- the background against which something happens or is analyzed. For example, the sharp political divides and current racism are happening against a backdrop of the United States having its first Black president. 
  • Bechdel Test– created by Alison Allison, the Bechdel Test looks for films that pass this simple, three question test: 1) Does the movie have two or more female characters (with names), 2) who talk to each other, and 3) about something besides a man. Surprisingly, this is a very hard test to pass, and it shows how imbedded and unconscious sexism in media is. 
  • Bechdel Test for Race- very similar to the original test, the Bechdel Test for Race looks for films that pass this test: 1) Does the movie have two or more non-White characters (with names), 2) who talk to each other, and 3) about something besides White people. Even fewer films will pass this test. 
  • binaries- one way to analyze History, particularly conflict groups. A binary analyzes two events, forces, or peoples at odds – that are defined against each other. Binaries include: us vs them, Men vs Women, savage vs civilized, active vs passive, individual vs community, reality vs fiction (illusions of reality), nature vs nurture, human vs not.
  • Black- I define “White,”  “Black,” etc, when necessary, the way society does, which is generally subjectively by appearance and occasionally still by the “one drop rule.” Of course “race” doesn’t exist, but as Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper say in “Beyond ‘identity’” to be effective scholars, we must separate and recognize the difference between “categories of practice” and “categories of analysis.” As a category of analysis, race is absolutely nonexistent, but as a category of practice, it is very real. It is also important to remember that “White” and “Black” and other racialized terms are not at all referring to colors as we typically think of them. Very few people are actually “White” or “Black.” Rather, we are all shades of gray (there is a wonderful song by Amanda Marshall called,We’re All Just Shades of Grey,” you should check it out). Please be sure to read this excellent statement by the American Anthropology Association about “race.”
  • borderlands- term used by historians to describe the area between two areas divided by political boundaries, where such boundaries do not necessarily mean anything to the people living on or within those boundaries. For instance, in terms of actual people and humans there is not a specific place where Mexico begins and the United States ends. Borderlands are important examples of geopolitics, too. 
  • bottom-up History- Historiographically, historians analyze events from a variety of perspectives, one being bottom-up History. When historians analyze from a bottom-up perspective (or grassroots) they are looking for the ways in which everyday people influence larger societal events. If we wanted to analyze the Civil Rights Revolution from a grassroots perspective, we would look at the Montgomery Bus Boycott and individuals such as Fannie Lou Hamer, for example.



  • campy- used in art and cinema studies to describe something that is deliberately over-the-top and excessive. 
  • cis/cisgendered– A cis-Male or cis-Woman enters the world with the announcement “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl,” respectively, and throughout life basically identifies comfortably with the associated socially constructed categories of male and female, respectively. In other words, if you are not transgendered, you are cisgendered. Cis status does not relate to sexual orientation. More here.
  • citizenship(s)- Notions of citizenship have always been in great flux in the United States. Who is a citizen? What does it take to become a citizen? We could even look at levels of citizenship. Who can vote? Is citizenship a right or privilege? Being a citizen of a nation always involves being part of a social contract or a reciprocal relationship. What is the government going to do for its citizens? What do citizens do in return? Citizenship also applies to the ways in which we belong or do not belong to a school, church, family, or other social group.
  • civil religion- deep, perhaps extreme, devotion to one’s country and its rhetoric, holidays, etc. See religion.
  • code switching- (coming soon)
  • cognitive dissonance- a gap between behavior and expectations. 
  • colonialism- “an enduring relationship of domination and mode of dispossession, usually (or at least initially) between an indigenous (or enslaved) majority and a minority of interlopers (colonizers), who are convinced of their own superiority, pursue their own interests, and exercise power through a mixture of coercion, persuasion, and collaboration.” (Dictionary of Human Geography, 2009) See imperialism.   
  • “color blind”- a popular notion that the United States is a society that no longer deals with racism and that people “don’t see” and “don’t internalize” the hue of a person’s skin. In reality, we all consciously and unconsciously notice the hue of a person’s skin and process how this is racialized – just like how we notice if a person is taller/shorter, younger/older – it’s only natural that we would notice. The “color blind” philosophies also resort to other explanations for consequences of on-going racism. For example, someone who is “color blind” occasionally says, “If Blacks would just work harder they’d be where we are.” This is a very misguided idea that doesn’t look at White Privilege and doesn’t recognize the on-going institutionalized nature of racism. 
  • Columbusing- “the art of discovering something that is not new. See this video
  • modern conservatism- political philosophy in the United States dating from the 1950s and 1960s with important roots in individualism, opposition to civil rights for Blacks, small government, and/or Christian Fundamentalism.  
  • context- broader era in which something occurs. For historians, context would be recognizing that the post-World War II technological boom occurred because of the Cold War and in an era of broader change in general. Additionally, by looking at context we recognize that that the decline of Victorianism and the rise of Modernism, the last Indian Wars, World War I, the Harlem Renaissance, the Second Industrial Revolution, the birth of movies, etc happened at the same time. Too often History is discussed as if only one thing happens at a time.
  • correlation does not imply causation- philosophy in the social sciences for working toward valid research. For example, in the summer both murder rates and ice-cream sales increase. Just because there is a correlation does not mean they are related. On the other hand, from a cultural studies/American Studies perspective, correlation is sometimes more important. By looking at the correlation between any given too variables–especially those seemingly at odds–we can sometimes have powerful and important insights. For example, consider the relationship, the correlation between the 2008 presidential election and films made during that same timeframe. See hermeneutics. 
  • critical thinking- metacognition or thinking what you are thinking about; always asking questions and looking at things in a different way. 
  • culture- “the attitudes, beliefs, values, and practices shared by a community of people which they often do not state or question and which they may not be consciously aware of.” (Julian Weissglass, 1994)
  • Culture of Fear- perpetuated by television stories that focus on only (or almost exclusively) bad things and make it appear as if the world is getting worse and worse. 
  • Culture of (or the Problem of) Leisure Time- “problem” caused by industrialism when it is no longer necessary to work all day, every day for basic survival . One of the manifestations of this, is that the average person–regardless of education watches four hours of television every day. 
  • Culture of Segregation- Instead of  using “Jim Crow” (a term I find offensive), I use the term “Culture of Segregation” to describe the conditions and treatments of Blacks from the 1890s to the 1950s and 1960s. During this era, it was legal and acceptable to discriminate against African-Americans in any way. Black Men were lynched, Black Women were raped. Opportunities for employment and education were limited or non-existent. The right to vote was taken away. Blacks were also re-enslaved through the convict lease system. Etc. Etc.  



  • declension- “the sky is falling, the sky is falling.” Declensionist narratives or accounts look at things as only getting worse. Somewhat postmodernist in the things-are-not-going-to-get-better-only-worse outlook. 
  • de facto something social permissible by tradition and practice- not necessarily legal or illegal in cases, in other case, an example of the gap between the law and reality. 
  • de jure- something legal and codified in court cases, laws, the Constitution, and/or amendments. 
  • deviant- sociologically, any behavior or person that is different from what is normal
  • distanciation- a technique used by some authors to purposely distance or alienate audiences. 
  • dramaturgy- a sociological theory that explains human actions in terms of the front stage (what the world sees) and the back stage (preparation, role management, private behavior, and thoughts). Similar to role-playing theory, which states we have all countless selves and faces depending on whom we are with, where we are, how we feel, etc. 



  • edifice- a word for the structure of a given set of mores, the “glue” that holds them together. 
  • enslaver- used instead of “master” when discussing the institution of slavery.
  • enslaved- used instead of “slave” when discussing the institution of slavery. 

“Were I to write Ar’n’t I a Woman? Today, I would use the verb “enslaved” rather than the noun “slave” to implicate the inhumane action of white people. The noun “slave” suggests a state of mind and being that is absolute and unmediated by an enslaver. “Enslaved” says more about what happened to black people without unwittingly describing the sum total of who they were. “Enslaved” forces us to remember that black men and women were Africans and African-Americans before they were forced into slavery and had a new-and denigrating-identity assigned to them.” (Deborah Gray White, 1999)

  • Epic of Gilgamesh- the “first” recorded “book” and an early sacred text. The Epic of Gilgamesh is older than the Christian sacred text. Some of the books in the Christian text are traced to the Epic of Gilgamesh. 
  • etymology- study of the history of words. 



  • feminism- “Feminism seeks to empower women and girls [and men and boys] through critical analysis of power, privilege, and oppression, as well as through social change actions at individual, community, and institutional levels.” (Kim Case). 
  • feminist- someone who believes every one is equal regardless of sexualization/genderization. 



  • gaze- typically used as the “Male Gaze,” could also say “White Gaze.” As developed in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” by Laura Mulvey, the Male Gaze is when the male point-of-view, narrator, film camera makes Women objects, particularly sexual objects, for male satisfaction and lust.   
  • genderized/sexualized– Very similar to racialized, by using the terminology “genderized” (instead of “gender”) and “sexualized” (instead of “sex”), we can more directly and specifically acknowledge that Male and Female, Man and Woman—are only socially constructions, even as so-called biological concepts. More here.
  • geopolitical- a term and perspective that helps us recognize that the geographical boundaries of nations, states, counties, states, and all of the other administrative areas and boundaries created are the result of political decisions, further they result from sociopolitical and geopolitical constructions and regularly change. Likewise, that geography (and the environment) have a profound impact on the ways in which people can and can’t live in a given area, and that this geography can change over time, especially in the face of misuse or overuse. In another example, two areas, such as the White and Black parts of town, might be geographically close but culturally very far away. Similarly, the border between various nations might have little or no meaning to the actual people who live and work there.
  • government(s)- Since the Civil War and especially since World War II, the government has played an increasingly large role in the everyday life of United Statesians. But regardless of time and place, government(s) have played a significant part in life for everyone. Governments pass laws (laws are always a response to some hope or fear), collect taxes, perpetuate wars, and otherwise organize and divide people into large groups. We must always remember that “the government” is no single, monolithic organism. Frequently, parts of the government (including different political parties) are at odds with each other. When discussing actions of “the government,” we must be as specific as possible. Do we mean the police, a state court, the national legislature, etc?



  • hagiography- biography written such that the subject is overly praised and idolized without objectively rendering the work ahistorical. 
  • hermeneutics- a theory of communication and translation that originated in the study of sacred texts. With the research of Wilhelm Dilthey, Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Paul Rioceur, for example, hermeneutics has evolved to describe the reciprocal relationship between audiences/readers and a given text (called the hermeneutical circle or arch). This theory says that the text (whether a novel, film, magazine, etc.) is not a static object and does not have any predefined meaning per se. From a hermeneutical perspective, we would look at how the text “bounces” to the reader, the reader “sees” it according to an infinite number of variables, and the the meaning the reader sees “bounces” back to the text and changes the text. This back and forth relationship is on-going. Both the reader and the text are constantly changing and responding to one another.  
  • heteronormative- heteronormative is the idea that everyone is heterosexual, that there is no question to this fact of life. School curriculums, laws, marriage certificates frequently operate from a heteronormative point-of-view. Saying to a Woman, “who is your husband?,” for example would be an example of speaking from a heteronormative perspective. In some states where equal marriage is on the books, the forms still say “Bride” and “Groom,” even if there are two brides or two grooms–yet another example of heteronormativity in action. See White Default. 
  • heterogenous- opposite of homogenous, heterogeneous groups are different according to whatever variable(s) is being looked at. 
  • historical memory- Historical memory (or a society’s myths) is the way in which people and institutions remember, memorialize, and celebrate or not celebrate the past. Historical memory is similar to History in that it is and can only be a small part of all of history, but it diverges from History in that historical memory refers more specifically to non-academic, non-source-based History. For example, a scholar interested in the historical memory of the American Revolution might look at celebrations of Independence Day over time or various representations of the American Revolution in film and literature. Historical memory, in sum, refers to popular understandings of the past.
  • historical unconscious- unconscious aspects of historical memory are best referred to as the historical unconscious, a vastly understudied dimension of cultural memory. Simply, the historical unconscious, although not to be confused with Carl Jung’s concept of the collective unconsciousness which said people are born with certain specific knowledge hardwired, is something of an umbrella term for all of the cultural identities and constructions of any given persons or societies that are not directly acknowledgeable, definable, inheritable, observable, or tangible.
  • historiography- Historiography is both the History of History and the study of various approaches, theories, and sources used to understand the writing of, teaching of, and study of the past. When looking at historiography, a student of History might compare and contrast different monographs about the Vietnam War, asking how scholars are similar and different in terms of the sources used, arguments, biases, etc.
  • history- anything and everything that has ever happened anywhere beginning from less than a micro-second ago. 
  • History- History with a capital “H,” is an academic and human endeavor used to reconstruct the past and make sense of the world, ideally based on evidence.  History, as continually examined and (re)told, is always changing, shifting, evolving, and is greatly selective in terms of who and what it remembers and what events it tells, minimizes, or emphasizes based on the given hopes and fears at a specific historical moment. In sum, History is NOT what happened but a (very selective) story of what happened. More here. See myth. 
  • Hollywood- more or less a synonym for mainstream film and film-making culture in the United States.   
  • homogenous- homogenous peoples or nations are the same or are said to be/treated as if they were the same. For example, we could appropriately say those currently in political or economic positions of power in the United States are mostly a homogenous group when it comes to how they are racialized. 
  • homosocial- not to be confused with “homosexual,” homosocial is a way in which to analyze environments that are almost exclusively all-male or all-female. For example, prisons are an example of homosocial environments. Men live and work almost exclusively with Men. Women live and work almost exclusively with Women. 
  • Horatio Alger Myth- a powerful mythology perpetuated during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era that anyone could be an Andrew Carnegie if they truly worked hard enough. This perspective does not recognize racism, sexism, or other realities of capitalism as it developed.  



  • identity politics – an individual’s identification with a group (or groups) and working toward a quasi unified group fighting toward a common interest. Identity politics focuses on one’s identity and validating one’s sense of belonging to a particular group with a particular history – it’s about finding a home, having respect, and embracing common histories and problems/interests.
  • imperialism- an unequal human and territorial relationship, usually in the form of an empire, based on ideas of superiority and practices of dominance, and involving the extension of authority and control of one state or people over another.” (Dictionary of Human Geography, 2009) See colonialism. 
  • individual differences- theory of intelligence that looks at a variety of factors such as physical ability, interest, experience, education, etc. to examine a person’s strengths and weaknesses. See multiple intelligences. 
  • industrialism- simply, the process by which work moves outside of the home. 
  • institutionalized- When looking at discrimination it is important—especially because an increasingly number of people say racism no longer exists or use one “success” story (such as having a Black President) to say racism is dead—to recognize the ways in which it is not individual so much as systemic or institutionalized. By looking at racism, sexism, etc. from this perspective, we can see how the Constitution, laws, advertising, school curriculums, and every other aspect of society embodies and perpetuates—consciously and unconsciously—the status quo.
  • internalized- process of fully understanding or accepting something. Can be negative, too. An immigrant might internalize hatred of immigrants they hear and hate themselves and other immigrants, as a result, for example. Or, a person can fully internalize the importance of education. 
  • intersectionality- looks specifically at how various forms of identity and discrimination overlap. For example, a Black Woman can face discrimination for being both a Woman and for being Black. A disabled gay Man lacks both Straight Privilege and Able-bodied Privilege and can face discrimination from both forms of oppression at the same time. The law (including the EEOC) and everyday individuals frequently have no concept of intersectionality and do not allow for it. An example from a Critical Race Theory book goes:

A Black Woman faces discrimination at work. Her boss only dislikes and is only prejudiced against Black Women. He has no problem with Women as a group, no problem with Blacks as a group. But he hates Black Women as a group, across the board. Because the EEOC does not recognize intersectionality, this woman would not be able to sue her boss for discrimination. The boss is not racist and he is not sexist. He is a racist-sexist. 

  • intertextuality- similar to intersectionality, but looks at the intersection and relationship between two texts. 
  • invisible disability- any kind of difference (i.e., disability) that is not and cannot be directly seen. 
  • –ISMs- The suffix -ISMs (e.g., ethnocentrism, racism, sexism, industrialism, social Darwinism, nationalism, imperialism, colonialism, liberalism, conservatism, progressivism, postmodernism, Victorianism, modernism capitalism, communism, socialism) includes many powerful, pervasive ideologies. ISMs have societal-wide consequences. Some of these such as liberalism or communism, provide a very specific worldview, set of promises, and “evils” to overcome. (See this post for more info.)



  • juxtaposition- similar to binary, but more related to art – an aesthetic method of deliberately placing two contrasting signs/images/texts close together. For example, at the end of The Birth of a Nation there is a clear and deliberate juxtaposition made between Heaven and Hell. 





  • lens- the “glasses” or frameworks through which something is examined. 
  • modern liberalism- dating from the 1930s and the New Deal, a political philosophy emphasizing bigger government to benefit everyone in terms of basic survival and civil rights. 
  • Liberal Consensus- The Liberal Consensus describes the era in the United States from c. 1933-1972 when the Democratic Party and their ideas where in power. This “consensus” emphasized the use of government(s) money and power to provide basic securities for citizens and to pass legislation to increase the civil and human rights of minorities, the notion that the United States was a thriving middle class society, and that communism was evil and the Cold War was a top priority. 



  • Madison Avenue- more or less a synonym for the advertising industry in the United States. 
  • McDonaldization- a sociological theory developed in 1993 by George Ritzer that seeks across-the-board explanatory power by paralleling the McDonalds model–efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control–to changes in the late-20th century across society- including colleges, changes in technology, etc.
  • microaggressions- very subtle and frequently unconscious forms of discrimination, especially through language. 
  • “Mighty Whitey”- a White character in fiction that saves non-White people. More here.
  • modernism- follows Victorianism, artistic and philosophical response to industrialism, imperialism from the 1890s-1910s exercised by the US, and science. Produced major shifts in societal mores. See postmodernism. 
  • modernity- describes a historical era, just like Ancient, Middle Ages, etc. Modern History is usually defined as starting somewhere in the 1600s and 1700s or early 1800s, sometimes after colonialism for so-called Western Societies and Latin American nations. This era is characterized by industrialization, surveillance, capitalism, and military.   
  • mores– a given group’s (can be very small or very large) set of core and basic everyday values, morals, and expectations. 
  • multiculturalism- being truly and fully committed to embracing and celebrating diversity and the full spectrum of differences.“Multiculturalism is the state of living while being culturally and linguistically aware of all the different domains of multiple cultures. Multiculturalism means being open to the ideas and characteristics of different cultures. This may mean that while acknowledging and retaining pride in ones own culture that you must keep a low-power-distance mentality towards other cultures. When beginning to understand multiculturalism one must take into account every part of a human life is effected by culture…especially education, which is at the core of living and life in general.”
  • multiple intelligences- theory of intelligence that rejects typical notions of IQ. Developed by Howard Gardner, this theory says everyone has many kinds of intelligences but that the manifestations that these take differ person-to-person. Some people are more “intelligent” playing musical instruments, some playing soccer, some writing. See individual differences. 
  • myth- “contrary to colloquial usage, a myth is not a story that is patently untrue. Rather, a myth is a story that speaks of meaning and purpose, and for that reason it speaks truth to those who take it seriously” (Richard T. Hughes, 2004)



  • Neo-Black Face- when a person dresses in the stereotypical style of another culture when someone from that actual culture would not be allowed to wear the same attire. More here.
  • Neo-Slavery- part of the Culture of Segregation. The process by which governments re-enslaved Blacks by using a loophole in the 13th amendment-“except as punishment for crime.” Crimes were made up and in the case of actual “crimes,” punishments were much harsher. Punishments generally consisted of hard labor under the convict leasing system. The morality rate was very high, in some case 100%. Because of this, it was described as being “worse than slavery.” Read this book to start for more information
  • “New Jim Crow”- term developed by Michelle Alexander to describe the en masse incarceration of Black Men since the Civil Rights Revolution as a result of deeply institutionalized racism in the United States’s Criminal Justice System, parallels process of neo-enslavment. 



  • “the Other”- One way to analyze relationships in society is to use the binary of majority vs. “the Other.” The person who is “Othered” is seen as an outsider and a society’s mores frequently permit and encourage discrimination that would otherwise be illegal. Similar to intersectionality, the same person can be “Othered” in some relationships but not in others. For example, a White Woman would be “the Other” when looking at relationships between (White) Men and Women, but would not be “Othered” in looking at relationships between White and Black people.



  • Pandora’s Box- used as a metaphor to describe a situation or action that results in the urgent and somewhat surprising release of emotions, frequently at odds with the provoking actions. 
  • parasocial relationships- one-sided relationships, when one person knows a great deal about a person which knows nothing about them. 
  • people of color-an umbrella term for those who are racialized in ways other than White. 
  • phenotype- the outward appearance of a person, observable characteristics. 
  • politics- (looking for a good definition!)
  • politics of respectability- ” refers to attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous and compatible with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for its failure to accept difference. The concept was first articulated by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham in her book Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880–1920. In the context of black American history, respectability politics was practiced as a way of attempting to consciously set aside and undermine cultural and moral practices thought to be disrespected by wider society, especially in the context of the family and good manners.” (Wikipedia)
  • postmodernism- an artistic, philosophical perspective developing as a result of World War II, the Holocaust in particular. This perspective is sometimes described as an “anything goes” perspective by those who don’t fully understand the theory. Notions of relativism and social construction are very important to this theory. A major component of this theory is that history/human progress is not likely. See modernism.  
  • purple people- “people with purple skin. I have never seen one, but white people keep bringing them up, as in: ‘I don’t care if you’re black, white, green or purple, it’s the person that counts.'” From Julian Abagond. See this page, too.
  • primary source– sources or cultural artifacts give us first-hand information about something — events, thoughts, values, perspectives, etc. Any source can be a primary source in some regard.



  • queer- an inclusive, academic umbrella term (and body of theory) to describe those who are non-normative and/or identify outside of the strict heterosexual/heteronormative binary-paradigm in some way or another as related to mores of sex, gender, and identity and reject associated violence and hegemony.  



  • racialized- A person is not White or Black, but a person can be racialized as White or Black. The use of racialized or racialization allows us to recognize how and why people are classified in various racialized categories, while remembering the process is a social construction and that people are people first. Racialization is frequently subjective and can vary by time, place, situation, or even clothing, for instance.
  • relativism- being able to see and at least try to understand the world from various points of view across time and place and religion and peoples, etc. 
  • religion- “(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existences and (4) clothing these conceptions with an aura of actuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.” (Clifford Geertz, 1977)
  • rhetoric- the specific wording used in a text, the placement of words and images, and the values this reveals or does not. For example, Half-Price Books has History books about White Men in the middle of the store, but books about Women, non-Whites, and LGBTs in the back of the store. The rhetoric of how these books are placed (and not placed) speaks values to what they value. This could be a reflection of customer values but also in turn shapes the values of customers. More hereSee hermeneutics.
  • ritual- any kind of important ceremony–public or private–that is deeply important to the mores of a given group or individual and that is regularly repeated. 
  • role playing- (coming soon)



  • scapegoating- the act of consciously or unconsciously blaming a group (women, immigrants, etc) for some kind of problem. 
  • secondary source- Secondary sources are based on primary sources. Keep in mind, too, that every secondary source is also a primary source in some fashion or another.
  • social construction- By recognizing that everything is a social construction (also called relativism), we can better understand and appreciate the differences between time and place, nations and peoples. In order to most effectively understand the past, it is necessary to look at things from a variety of perspectives and to try and understand how they came to be. In an example focused on point-of-view, there is always a gap between why a government fights a war and why its soldiers do.
  • soma- Originating in Brave New World, anything that uses people, waste their time, makes them not care, etc. Television is a form of “soma” for many. 
  • semiotics- a theory and explanation of the development of language. Semiotics looks at the gap and the socially constructed connection between letters and their sounds, the words they form, and the objects they refer to. 
  • symbolic annihilation- process in media particularly relevant to women, LGBTs, and people of color where they 1) don’t see themselves and 2) only seeing self as a victim. 



  • technology- any kind of tool or devise constructed and used to do things. 
  • teleological- world views that says beliefs are predetermined. 
  • texts- any object–a film, a book, a building–even a person or event can be considered a “text.” By looking at things as texts we can study the ways in which they are constructed and all of the factors affected how they are built, how they change, and all of the on-going and changing relationships associated herein. See hermeneutics.
  • theory- a hypothesis or framework which seeks to explain, and/or predict, and/or offer a framework for analysis 
  • thick description- a perspective developed by Anthropologist Clifford Geertz that seeks to find as many possible explanations and meanings for a given behavior as possible. One example he uses is an eye blink – it could by flirtatious, a hello, a sign he/she has allergies, could have been an accident, or depending on his/her culture something altogether different. More here.
  • top-down History- For much of history, top-down History (or the “great [White] Men” approach) was the primary and frequently exclusive way in which people wrote about the past, at least in the so-called Western World. This approach focuses on change resulting from the action or inaction of politicians, generals, the super-rich, and wars, for example. This approach is still used and is certainly needed to fully understand events. For example, a top-down approach to the Civil Rights Revolution would look at the (important) role the NAACP, Supreme Court, presidents, etc. When any one approach is used, much is excluded and understandings are unnecessarily limited.
  • “tragic Mulatto”- type of character used in literature, someone who is “half White, half Black,” and who has a very tragic life because of this. 
  • trajectory- a horizontal examination per se. For example, a study might follow the trajectory of technological change. Or by looking at the trajectory of racism and sexism in the U.S., we find that little has changed as discrimination takes new forms. 
  • trinary- similar to binary, but looks at the opposing relationship between three variables. 
  • trope- combination of a metaphor and a stereotype/archetypal character. 



  • United Statesian- any one who proclaims to be a “citizen” (not defined in the currently vary biased way) of the United States. I do not use “American” because everyone in North and South America from Greenland and Canada to Mexico to Peru and Brazil is an “American.”
  • upstreaming- using the knowledge and values of a specific time and place and group to “judge,” understand, and analyze past peoples, perspectives, and events. Sometimes called being excessively presentist. People using this perspective lack cultural relativism. 
  • user-created (or user generated) media- media–blogs such as this one, many YouTube videos (through for sure many, many more when it premiered), Facebook groups, Instagram, etc.–created by everyday individuals for everyday individuals without the desire to make money or the hand of a company or commercialized pressure yet with the goal of being more informal per se, sharing ideas, starting movements, and  creating a more truly authentic democratic medium.   
  • utopian past- the on-going process by which 1) people constantly think “the present” (a condition I actually reject as even existing) is much worse than the past, 2) the more distant past is re-re-re-re written and remembered to make it seem better and utopian. Nothing is as new as we think.



  • verisimilitude- a significant disjuncture between a text’s appearance of “truth” and the reality. 



  • White- I define “White,”  “Black,” etc, when necessary, the way society does, which is generally subjectively by appearance and occasionally still by the “one drop rule.” Of course “race” doesn’t exist, but as Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper say in “Beyond ‘identity’” to be effective scholars, we must separate and recognize the difference between “categories of practice” and “categories of analysis.” As a category of analysis, race is absolutely nonexistent, but as a category of practice, it is very real. It is also important to remember that “White” and “Black” and other racialized terms are not at all referring to colors as we typically think of them. Very few people are actually “White” or “Black.” Rather, we are all shades of gray (there is a wonderful song by Amanda Marshall called, “We’re All Just Shades of Grey,” you should check it out). Please be sure to read this excellent statement by the American Anthropology Association about “race.”
  • White Default- the process of assuming that “White people” are “natural” and “don’t have race” – that the way White people do things is best, natural, and good. 
  • White Privilege-Due to centuries of racism and control, people with lighter skin across the World have been thought to be “prettier” and “better” by their societies. In the United States, one manifestation of this is “White Privilege.” Simply by virtue of being White, people in the United States are provided a whole array of additional opportunities, freedoms, and extra chances. Additionally, due to a whole variety of subtle and unconscious assumptions, people who are racialized as White see the world differently. Peggy McIntosh’s article on White Privilege from 1988 remains the best introductory work on this topic. White people are frequently uncomfortable when White Privilege is mentioned. They say I work hard; I have earned my things; no one has helped me. This way of seeing the World ignores vast bodies of evidence that confirm again and again that simply by virtue of being White in the United States a person will have a much easier time in life. This is an excellent article that uses the lowest level on a video came as a metaphor for the dynamics of White Privilege. Individuals can do little about White Privilege beyond actively being aware of it and actively helping others have fair and equitable opportunities. White Privilege will never be dismantled until the law makes room for the role racism has played, until movies and music and school curriculums truly embrace multiculturalism, until individuals en masse recognize the legacies of racism and actively work toward change every-single-day. White Privilege is also particularly challenging because, as we know from psychological research, people are more comfortable around people who “look” like they do. 
  • White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy- powerful and important term created by bell hooks, a summarized definition cannot do it justice. Her words on the subject are:

I began to use the phrase in my work “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” because I wanted to have some language that would actually remind us continually of the interlocking systems of domination that define our reality and not to just have one thing be like, you know, gender is the important issue, race is the important issue, but for me the use of that particular jargonistic phrase was a way, a sort of short cut way of saying all of these things actually are functioning simultaneously at all times in our lives and that if I really want to understand what’s happening to me, right now at this moment in my life, as a black female of a certain age group, I won’t be able to understand it if I’m only looking through the lens of race. I won’t be able to understand it if I’m only looking through the lens of gender. I won’t be able to understand it if I’m only looking at how white people see me.

To me an important breakthrough, I felt, in my work and that of others was the call to use the term white supremacy, over racism because racism in and of itself did not really allow for a discourse of colonization and decolonization, the recognition of the internalized racism within people of color and it was always in a sense keeping things at the level at which whiteness and white people remained at the center of the discussion.

In my classroom I might say to students that you know that when we use the term white supremacy it doesn’t just evoke white people, it evokes a political world that we can all frame ourselves in relationship to….

And so for me those words were very much about the constant reminder, one of institutional construct, that we’re not talking about personal construct in the sense of, how do you feel about me as a woman, or how do you feel about me as a black person?

… We have to problematize nationalism beyond race, in all kinds of ways that I think there’s a tremendous reluctance […] to have a more complex accounting of identity.

  • world view- the total collection of a person’s beliefs, histories, experiences, education, values, etc for how they see the world. 



  • xenophobia- intense dislike of immigrants. 






Select Recommended Reference Books:

  • Derek Gregory, et al., eds., The Dictionary of Human Geography, 5th edition 
  • David Macey, Dictionary of Critical Theory
  • Simon Malpas and Paul Wake, eds., The Routledge Companion to Critical and Cultural Theory
  • Sharlene Sayegh and Eric Altice, History and Theory 
  • Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide, 2nd edition 


6 replies


  1. Introducing My Glossary « Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.
  2. The Nature of History, History as Entity vs. Example, and Texas History « Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.
  3. A Letter to My Students « Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.
  4. “Canada’s Smartest Person” Should be Called “Canada’s Fastest Person” – Without Ritual, Autonomous Negotiations

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