Unless otherwise indicated with an author’s name, all definitions below have been directly quoted or paraphrased from Barker, Chris. The Sage Dictionary of Cultural Studies. London: Sage Publications, 2004.
Hegemony: the process of making, maintaining and reproducing the governing or ascendant set of meanings, ideologies and practices in any given culture or society.
Hybridity: the mixing together of previously discrete cultural elements to create new meanings and identities.
Identity Politics: political ideologies concerned with the making and maintenance of cultural rights for those persons making identity claims within society and culture. Often involves actions aimed at changing social practices, usually through the formation of coalitions where at least some values are shared. Asserts that the representation of identities is a political question because they are intrinsically bound up with questions of power as a form of social regulation that is productive of the self and enables some kinds of identities to exist while denying others.
Multiplicity/Multiple Identities: the assumption of different and potentially contradictory identities at different times and places and which do not form a unified coherent self. Persons are thus best understood as being composed not of one but of several identities that are not integrated into a cohesive self. (Note: Intersectionality, coined by African-American lawyer and critical race theorist Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, is a concept that understands multiple identities as axes that are inextricably linked to one another. Thus, the lived experience of a woman of color, for example, is equally determined by her subject position as a person of color and as a woman—Emma Jacobs).
Orientalism: a set of Western discourses of power that have constructed an Orient in ways that depend on and reproduce the positional superiority and hegemony of the West. Theorized by Edward Said who argued that cultural-geographical entities such as the Orient are not inert facts of nature, but rather should be grasped as historically specific discursive constructions that have a particular history and tradition.
(the) Other: closely linked to those of identity and difference in that identity is understood to be defined in part by its difference from the Other. Such binaries of difference usually involve a relationship of power, of inclusion and exclusion, in that one of the pair is empowered with a positive identity and the other side of the equation becomes the subordinated Other. The identities of each side of the relationship of the binary are forged together. The master is inseparable from the slave, the identities of men are interlocked with those of women and the subjectivity of the colonial ruler is forged in tandem with the colonized subject. Common practice is to use the term “othering” as an active verb, and “othered” to refer to those that have been treated as an “other.”
Postcolonial: can refer to the time period since the colonization processes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries or to the colonial discourse itself. Postcolonial theory explores the way colonial relations and their aftermath have been constituted through representation. It also analyzes subject positions in relation to themes of race, nation, subjectivity, power, and hybridity.
Subjectivity: the condition of being a person and/or the processes by which we become persons, that is, how we are constituted as subjects and come to experience ourselves. When applied to forms of representation, the “subject” or “subject matter” of an image, this concept of subjectivity becomes exponentially complex.
Womanism: a concept coined by African-American writer and feminist Alice Walker to refer specifically to black feminism/feminism explicitly concerned with the rights of Women of Color. Meant as an identificatory term reserved exclusively for black women who believe that other feminist movements are racially exclusive. –Emma Jacobs