I was ecstatic when i read Donna Gabaccia's discussion of "keywords." There is a name for this? People really write books about it? I was thrilled to learn that people do systematically what I, in a bumbling sort of way, dabble with. For the past few years, I have kept a "phrase file," entering what Gabaccia calls "central and evocative terms," along with instances of their use that I happen upon while doing other things (Gabaccia, "Nations of Immigrants" 6). Every once in a while, I check in with JSTOR, Reader's Guide Retrospective, and Google Books. I am grateful to Gabaccia for showing us the power of this kind of analysis.
The point of the Coss dialogues is for philosophers to engage with people from other disciplines. In my response, I will take Gabaccia's message about keywords leading to new insights and adapt it to the historical recovery projects many of us pursue. First, I will give some concrete examples of how using keyword searches turned my head around and led me to read classic texts in new ways. Second, I will examine how Grace Abbott and Jane Addams talked about immigrants. They were advocates. When the words the culture gave them carried messages of denigration, restriction, and exclusion, they found strategies with which to subvert those messages.
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Johns Hopkins University Press
Fischer, Marilyn, "Keywords: What's an Advocate to Do with the Words She's Given?" (2010). Philosophy Faculty Publications. 137.