The Language Wars

“[T]oday, languages are changing more rapidly than ever.  The reality is most lexicographers are likely scrambling to keep up with all the neologisms and newly developed, most prominent meanings. We can point to the networked behavior of digital and social media as one of the driving factors, the ‘how’ of rapid meaning changes. But why are there so many more new connotations for words? If there is such a thing as a linguistic time of peace, is there a linguistic time of war?

rhetoricThe fact is language does not change in steady ebbs and flows. Cultural and social forces can play a major role in the speed at which language changes. Some language scholars claim that language actually behaves differently during times of social upheaval and even war, according to linguist Donna Farina. So as a society becomes increasingly unstable, it turns out this is when linguistic innovation happens more rapidly, possibly as speakers seek to explain, reclaim, dilute or degrade certain terms on the linguistic battlefield.”

SOURCE: Luu, Chi. “The Language Wars.” JStor Daily.


Reading “The Stranger” in Tehran

Excerpt from Robert Zaretsky’s interview with Mohammad Hekmat:

What are the pleasures and difficulties in translating Camus into Farsi? Are these difficulties only linguistic, or are there philosophical and political challenges as well?

the-stranger“Linguistically, the difficulty is in certain terms that he uses. Perhaps the most difficult term, which I have seen other translators struggle with too, is the word absurd. There is no direct translation of the word absurd into Persian. I have seen different approaches by Iranian translators — some even just use the transliteration of the word. His more philosophical works have been much harder to translate. I tried to read The Myth of Sisyphus in Persian, and it’s extremely hard to understand. This has been a general issue with translation of modern and Western philosophy into Persian. There is simply a shortage of terms, and the style had no tradition. There have been numerous efforts to invent new words, many of which have been successfully adopted, but it’s an ongoing process.”

SOURCE: Zaretsky, Robert. “Reading ‘The Stranger’ in Tehran: An Interview with Mohammad Hekmat.” Los Angeles Review of Books.

How Facebook, Fake News & Friends Are Warping Your Memory

“Memory is notoriously fallible, but some experts worry that a new phenomenon is emerging. ‘Memories are shared among groups in novel ways through sites such as Facebook and Instagram, blurring the line between individual and collective memories,’ says psychologist Daniel Schacter, who studies memory at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ‘The development of Internet-based misinformation, such as recently well-publicized fake news sites, has the potential to distort individual and collective memories in disturbing ways.’”

nature_NF_Memory-illo_09.03.2017“Although history has frequently been interpreted for political ends, psychologists are now investigating the fundamental processes by which collective memories form, to understand what makes them vulnerable to distortion. They show that social networks powerfully shape memory, and that people need little prompting to conform to a majority recollection — even if it is wrong. Not all the findings are gloomy, however. Research is pointing to ways of dislodging false memories or preventing them from forming in the first place.”

“To combat the influence of fake news, says Micah Edelson, a memory researcher at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, ‘it’s important to understand not only the creation of these sites, but also how people respond to them’”.

SOURCE: Spinney, Laura. “How Facebook, Fake News and Friends Are Warping Your Memory.” Nature News.

Foucault -The Power Thinker

“Rather than staying in the world of words, in the 1970s he shifted his philosophical attention to power, an idea that promises to help explain how words, or anything else for that matter, come to give things the order that they have.”


“Foucault sought to unburden philosophy of its icy gaze of capturing essences. He wanted to free philosophy to track the movements of power, the heat and the fury of it working to define the order of things.”

“Discipline, according to Foucault’s historical and philosophical analyses, is a form of power that tells people how to act by coaxing them to adjust themselves to what is ‘normal’. It is power in the form of correct training. Discipline does not strike down the subject at whom it is directed, in the way that sovereignty does. Discipline works more subtly, with an exquisite care even, in order to produce obedient people. Foucault famously called the obedient and normal products of discipline ‘docile subjects’.”

SOURCE: Koopman, Colin. “Why Foucault’s Work on Power Is More Important Than Ever.” Aeon.

A Conversation with Judith Butler



“It is by virtue of our social dependency that we are vulnerable, and there is no way to understand the embodied status of human life without contextualizing the social imperative under which it lives, and upon which its life depends. In this way, we are, as bodies, never quite discrete or bounded: we are given over from the start to those people, practices, environments, networks of life, without which our own life is not possible. In this sense, the Spinozistic conatus implies a social theory.”


SOURCE: Cazier, Jean-Philippe. “Acting in Concert: A Conversation with Judith Butler.” Verso Books.

Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong

dewaal-human-rights_body2“Human rights advocacy is a critique of power, not a directive for exercising it; humility is not only a necessary character trait but also an ideal. I now believe that a fully emancipatory human rights practice must be based on an agenda set by the affected people. This requires challenging the iniquitous structures of power that too often stand in the way of emancipation or co-opt narratives of human rights for their own ends.”

SOURCE: Waal, Alex de. “Writing Human Rights and Getting It Wrong.” Boston Review.