When Language becomes Power, Culture becomes Resistance

How Language shapes Reality; An introduction to the impossibility of objectivity

The extent of the power casted by Language is far greater than it seems. Language is our way to shape thoughts, to make the intangible tangible; symbols and signs which create the semiotic ground for social beings to understand each other. Language sets the way we see the world. Over time, it alters our reality and that of the people around us, over time, through its repeated use it supersedes us – it is, then, guiding the rules of what we call reality. Within said rules, we can get but a glimpse of the vastness of cultural and social values that lie dormant and dictate our behavior.

Josué Rivas, our friend, and NATV guest editor, (Otomi/Mexica) an Indigenous documentary photographer, creative director, and Indigenous futurist, put the connection between language and reality this way: Every culture has its own protocol, Every protocol is rooted in Language and every Language, completing the circle, is rooted in protocol. Thus, to convey the trustful image from a culture, it’s fundamental to understand its protocol. In this way, journalists from or in colonized spaces coming into Standing Rock to photograph, bringing these images to a staged world while claiming its objectivity, portrays their own framework more than it shows that which they believe they are capturing. This causes a repetition of stereotypical illustrations of ‘the Indian’. A way of working rooted in the language in which they describe photography; shooting, capturing, subjecting, and extracting. These are colonial terms. Terms not used or even known in such a way in most Indigenous languages, exchanged by other words that would translate to ‘regenerating’, ‘co-creating’, as they allow a different approach to what ‘objective’ journalism could or should be.

Download and read the full essay published in Let’s Explore Magazine 2021 here