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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: September 2009

Chapter 5 - The rage of women


This paper concerns feminism, slavery, bloody revenge, and centuries of oppression, but it has to start with philology. Since I shall be considering what seems to be the attempt of a male-dominated culture to delegitimize the expression of certain emotions, we had better know what those emotions were. This is all the more necessary because a good deal of the scholarly and scientific literature about the emotions still neglects semantics, with serious consequences. Even in recent years some scientific researchers into anger have set out to perform “cross-cultural” research without considering the likelihood that the concepts used by their non-anglophone subjects do not correspond neatly with those that prevail in English.

Meanwhile, however, since about 1980, a number of anthropologists have made a crucial advance in research about the emotions by registering and exploring the fact that the emotional terms employed in other natural languages very commonly fail to correspond closely with the English terminology. This realization has come from investigating languages in the Philippines, in Uganda, and other places, but it might have come from studying French or German, for as anyone quickly realizes who lectures to international audiences about “anger,” that word is not a perfect match for colère (you sometimes need rancune, for instance) or for Zorn (you sometimes need Raserei or other words). What the speakers of a particular language mean by the word in their language which most closely corresponds to English “anger” probably means something more or less subtly different.