It's that time of the year again, when the Seniors of Clapham School display an important outcome of their schooling. The defense of their Senior Thesis is a rite of passage that ushers these well deserving students into early adulthood, as they are empowered and equipped to serve Christ.
Throughout the months of April and May we will share posts featuring the work of each of our seniors. If you are intrigued by these appetizers, be sure to join us for their presentations and defenses during the week of May 10th. More details will be shared as we approach the dates.
The History and Continual Presence of Dehumanizing Language
by Allison Dumper
Question: What is your thesis about?
My thesis is about dehumanizing language. I am assessing the role that language plays in dehumanization by observing its historical role and modern usage. In the most condensed way of saying it, I am analyzing words and phrases pointing out how they may carry more baggage and may be more negatively impactful than we mean them to be.
Question: How did you narrow down your topic?
I started by wanting to talk about dehumanization and objectification as broader categories looking at the particular groups being affected but after reading Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When word Games Take Lives, by William Brennan, I was shocked by how often people utilize dehumanizing language in everyday interactions. After noticing how frequent this language was I knew I had to talk about dehumanizing vernacular.
Question: What was the hardest part of writing your thesis?
The hardest part for me was transitioning from the brainstorm to the actual writing. I had everything I wanted to say in my head, but sitting down and putting it on paper in words that made sense was difficult and time consuming.
Question: What surprised you most about the process or the findings?
I was surprised how frequently this language occurs and the fact that it is used without knowing that it dehumanizes. Once you understand what dehumanizing language is and does you can hear and see it everywhere which is daunting but also empowering because, in a way, it legitimizes and backs the idea that language needs to be addressed.
Question: What resource was most helpful or made the biggest impact on your research or conclusion?
The book Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives by William Brennan! I highly recommend anyone who finds my thesis remotely interesting to read this book. Brennan was a major influence on my topic. However, my conclusion is rather nuanced, not stemming from any source in particular, but rather from the desire to maintain freedom of speech and still try to reduce dehumanizing language.
Question: How will your findings impact your life personally?
Already, I am massively more aware of this language and the role it plays in my life and around me in society, which has reformed the way I express what I’m thinking or feeling. I definitely have a feeling that this process of writing a thesis as well as the content of the thesis will continue to impact my life in college and beyond.
Question: How did you experience the process of writing the thesis?
For me the research part of the project looked like a lot of reading but for a short time every day. The writing looked like six-plus hours of writing each day, multiple days in a row, then days of light editing, then more writing. I had deadlines that I was trying to make. For the first bit of time each day my writing was frankly bad, and I deleted most of it. But after a bit of time the thoughts would flow, so hours and pages ended up just passing by.
Question: What advice do you have for next year's seniors?
Pick a topic that is extremely interesting to you because it will be in the back, or forefront, of your brain for nine months. It is hard to keep working on something when you feel like you said all that needs to be said, so don’t be afraid to set it aside for a few days and take a break so long as you are not procrastinating. There is a difference between putting off work and setting it aside for a short time.
Allison has attended Clapham School since Class Five in 2013, making this her eighth year. She plans to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, tentatively majoring in Communications or Pre-Counseling. Even though she is still figuring out her educational path, she knows that she wants to work in the Pro-Life movement in some capacity.