Scott’s book on gender points out the very fragile nature of “how we know what we know.” Scott points to language as the way in which people represent and organize life. Language creates a cosmology upon which people build their values, order their priorities and take action. Napoleon once said that, “a man will die for a bit of ribbon” (a medal), this because he had internalized the symbology of the ribbon. Thus if you change the language (terms of debate) you begin to change the system of values.
Why would you need to change the terms of debate? Scott suggests that history, as it had traditionally been written by men, is a fiction created through implicit processes of differentiation, marginalization, and exclusion. Power relationships determine how the story is told. As new power centers emerge in a society (class, race, gender, ethnicity) alternative views of history emerge. Scott shows the underlying power structure behind the writing of history and implicitly raises the question, “Who owns’ history?” In a homogenous society you have “one” history. In a heterogeneous society you have multiple histories.
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