November 19th, 2019


Anglo-Saxon Attitude

I had no idea until today that the word "Anglo-Saxon" was in any way controversial. Apparently it's because I hang out in the wrong part of the internet.

Anyway, I learned from a colleague that "Anglo-Saxon" has been co-opted by white supremacists in America, and that because of this there are demands that the term be dropped by scholars (e.g. historians of Britain between 500-1100C.E.) generally. My colleague is writing about just that period, and is having difficulty finding acceptable alternatives.

Is that a fair summary of the situation, or am I missing important context?

I feel fairly conflicted. On the one hand, if a term is being used by racists I'd rather avoid it, to avoid a) giving them credibility and b) appearing racist myself.

On the other hand...

a) I'm not sure what alternative terms are both available and widely understood.
b) Racists have also adopted terms such as "English" and "British," but there's no demand to drop them: why is this different? (Also, letting racists effectively dictate what words can be used seems like a kind of capitulation.)
c) There seems something imperialist in the idea that because something is unacceptable in the USA it must be so throughout the world. (I was sad to read that the Japanese government intended to efface the swastika symbol from tourist maps - where it indicates a Buddhist temple - because it might be misinterpreted by Westerners. Isn't this similar?)

Anyway, I'm sure neither of the facts nor of my own opinion, so I'd appreciate any help in clarifying either.