This glossary has been created as a resource for practitioners and researchers who are interested in social, and transformative justice work. Often terminology can be both really useful (for theory and in practice) but also ambiguous or jargonistic. This glossary sets out how we in the Making Spaces project understand some key words and ideas.
The glossary is, and will remain, a process of work in progress. We welcome dialogue and look forward to revising and developing it over the course of the project.
For more detail on our scholar activist approach to this glossary, please press HERE…
#1: Abolition: the act of abolishing a system, practice, or institution e.g. abolishing slavery. An abolitionist vision means building models today that can represent how we want to live in the future. Abolition includes practical strategies towards liberation and empowerment, which allow us all to believe that things can be different. Abolition is living this vision in our everyday lives. It is both a tool for organisation and a long-term goal.
#2: Accomplice: An ally who directly challenges institutionalised/supremist frameworks of oppression (i.e. racism, transphobia, ableism) by actively resisting, blocking, and standing up to systemic modes of oppression on every level, and actively relinquishes their own privilege for a just society. An accomplice fights with oppressed peoples, and their actions are coordinated by those who are oppressed.
#3: Ableism: is implicit and explicit oppression and social discrimination against people with disabilities, and those who are perceived to have disabilities. Within the ableist framework, people with disabilities are considered ‘lesser than’ or inferior to non-disabled/ able bodied people.
#4: Actor: Although aware there are systemic oppressions in society, the actor does not disrupt the status quo, and as such situates themselves at the side-lines. They have nominal effect in creating change and offering transformative support to marginalised groups. Systems of oppression are challenged when actors shift to, or couple their actions with, allies and/or accomplices.
#5: Ageism: A system of oppression that works against both the young and the old. Ageist frameworks value individuals of a particular age range, however this age range is not fixed, and shifts in accordance with an individual’s race and gender (amongst other things).
#6: Ally: A person who is a member of an intersectionally privileged social group who takes a stand against oppression through educating themselves and others so as eliminate oppressive attitudes and beliefs in themselves and their communities. Allies are willing to engage in difficult conversations, but their contributions remain local and relatively low risk. The next step for an ally is to become an accomplice.
#7: Birth Assigned Sex: The designation that refers to a person’s biological, hormonal, and genetic composition. A persons sex is typically assigned at birth and classified as either female or male – an act that can and does have violent consequences of intersex and transgender people.
#8: Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) : An acronym originated in the US, particularly within activist circles, as a more inclusive version of the terminology ‘person of colour’ that includes an acknowledgment to colonialism, and solidarity. As a rule, we should be mindful of acronyms, as they act as group bundlers, and this term is no exception.
#9: Cisgender: Individuals whose gender identity and expression align with their birth-assigned sex.
#10: Classism: A system of oppression that includes but are not limited to institutional, cultural, societal, and individual beliefs and practices that assign value to people based in their socio-economic status. In this framework, members of more privileged socio-economic classes are seen as having greater value, which in turn affords them greater privileges.
#11: Collusion: Thinking and acting in ways that support dominant systems of power, privilege, and oppression, and/or preventing others from trying to eliminate oppression.
#12: Colonialism: Defined as “control by one power over a dependent area or people.” Colonialism is commonly used to refer to when one country violently invades and takes control of another country, claims the land as its own, and sends people — “settlers” — to live on that land. However, colonialism stretches beyond colonised lands, to domains of control within societies and states that include a dominant group exerting control over others through the mechanisms of economy, authority, gender, and knowledge.
#13: Cultural Appropriation: A term used to describe the taking of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in generally used to describe Western appropriations (by the Global North) of non‐Western (Global South) or Black, Brown, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian culture and history, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.
#14: Cultural Competence: The ability to effectively and empathetically work and engage with people of different cultural identities and backgrounds in order to provide safe and accountable spaces for dialogue and discourse. Cultural competence is relevant in all fields of work, education, and informal social interactions.
#15: Decolonisation: Active resistance against colonial powers, and a shifting of power towards political, economic, educational, cultural, psychic independence that originate from a colonised people’s own indigenous culture. This process occurs politically and also applies to personal and societal psychological, cultural, political, agricultural, and educational deconstruction of colonial oppression.
#16: Discrimination: The creation of a distinction (implicitly or explicitly), based on a characteristic, or perceived characteristic that has the effect of imposing burdens, obligations or disadvantages on an individual or a class of individuals that is not imposed upon others. The distinction withholds or limits access to opportunities, benefits and advantages available to other individuals or classes of individuals in society.
#17: Ethnocentrism: Judging another culture solely based on the standards and values of one’s own culture, believing in the inherent superiority of one’s own nation or ethnic group.
#18: Equity: Differential provision of resources according to need, ensuring that everyone has what they require to succeed. Part of a process of actively moving everyone closer to success by “levelling the playing field.”
#19: Gender: a socially constructed range of characteristics pertaining to, differentiating between, and stretching beyond, masculinity and femininity.
#20: Gender Binary: A social construction of gender in which there are two distinct and opposite genders: male/masculine/men and female/feminine/women.
#21: Gender Expression: A person’s presentation of their gender. These outward expressions of gender can be intentional or unintentional and involve one’s mannerisms, clothing, hair, speech, clothing, movement and activities.
#22: Gender identity: A person’s sense of their own gender. This may include identities on either end of the gender binary, somewhere in-between or outside the gender binary. A person’s gender identity can be separate from birth assigned sex, and gender expression.
#23: Gender pronoun: Gender pronouns (e.g. they/their, she/her, he/him) are words that specifically refer to people to denote gender/sex. Some individuals may use pronouns that line up with their birth-assigned sex, while others will use pronouns that best suit their gender identity.
#24: Heteronormative: is the belief that that binary gender identities and heterosexual orientation is the normal and correct way to be.
#25: Homophobia: The fear, hatred, and intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as not heterosexual/ straight.
#26: Implicit Bias: The unconscious attitudes, stereotypes, and unintentional actions (positive or negative) towards members of a group because of their (identified or assumed) membership of a particular group. These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages.
#27: Institutions: Fairly stable social arrangements and practices through which collective actions are taken. Examples of institutions in the U.K. include the legal, educational, health care, social service, government, media, and criminal justice systems.
#28: Institutional racism: refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of colour.
#29: Intersectional/ intersectionality: The idea that multiple identities and injustices intersect to structure and shape people’s lives. Intersecting identities and injustices can include gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age, mental disability, physical disability, mental illness, and physical illness as well as other forms of identity. These aspects of identity and injustice are not discrete or mutually exclusive and are inseparably interlinked.
#30: Marginalised: marginalised peoples are those kept from meaningful and dignified participation in social life.
#31: Microaggression: the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalised group membership.
#32: Oppression: Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control; cruel or unjust exercise of authority or power. The term is used to describe systems, relations, or behaviours which disadvantage groups or individuals through formal institutions or informal attitudes and behaviours. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures.
#33: Person of Colour: A person who is not white. This can include, but is not limited to, people who identify as Black, Asian, LatinX/Latino, Pacific Islander, Indigenous/Native American, African, Middle Eastern etc.
#34: Prejudice: A pre-judgment or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members. Such negative attitudes are typically based on crude generalisations (or stereotypes) that deny the complex humanity and rights of members of certain groups to be recognised and treated as individuals with individual characteristics.
#35: Prison industrial complex: A term used to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social, and political problems.
#36: Privacy: a human right that respects the right of people, including their data, to be left alone or kept to themselves. Privacy is also considered to be culturally and historically defined, meaning that data sharing practices might be considered appropriate or acceptable for one group but not for another.
#37: Race: A social construct of categorization attributed based on (perceived) shared physical characteristics, ancestry, genetics, and/or biology. These traits can include hair and eye color, bone and jaw structure, skin colour, and more. ‘Racial differences’ are imagined, invented, reproduced and bolstered by Whites as part of White supremacy and can be malleable and disturbingly subtle.
#38: Racism: A system of oppression based on an individual’s or group’s self-identified or perceived racial identity. Racism is not reducible to racial prejudice, hatred, or discrimination. Racism involves one group having the power to carry out systematic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of the society and by shaping the cultural beliefs and values that support those racist policies and practices.
#39: Racial profiling: A form of stereotyping based on preconceived ideas about a person’s character.
#40: Religious oppression: A system of oppression based on an individual’s or group’s actual or perceived religious beliefs and practices.
#41: Sanism: a system of oppression against people with mental difference, emotional distress, and/or who have been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. It is based predominantly upon stereotype, myth, superstition, and de-individualisation, and is largely invisible and socially acceptable, despite the damage it does.
#42: Stereotypes: attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and assumptions about a target group that are widespread and socially sanctioned. Stereotypes support the maintenance of institutionalized oppression by seemingly validating misinformation or beliefs.
#43: Systems of oppression: the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s (identified or perceived) membership in the social identity group.
#44: Transformative justice: A political framework and approach for responding to violence, harm, subjugation and abuse. At its simplest it seeks to respond to violence without creating more violence and/or engaging in harm reduction to lessen the violence.
#45: Transgender or Trans: an umbrella term that describes a person whose gender identity differs from their gender assigned at birth.
#46: Transgender Non-binary: an identity term for a person whose gender falls outside of, or lies in-between, the gender binary of masculine and feminine. Non-binary identities fall under the transgender umbrella, as many non-binary individuals do not identify with their birth assigned sex.
#47: Transphobia: a system of oppression based on the fear and hatred of individuals who are transgender and non-binary. Transphobic violence can be both physical: in terms of direct bodily harm, and psychic: in terms of denying a person gender identity, or refusing to accept it.
#48: Weightism: Prejudice and discrimination based on body weight. Weightism has strong ties to colonialism and beauty ideals of the global north.
#49: Whiteness: An oppressive social framework based on the normalisation and valorisation of ‘white’ skin colour that is key to the reproduction of white people’s dominance and control and continued racial injustices. It is a practice of power that operates across multiple levels, from interpersonal interactions to social practices, public and media representations, organizations and societal institutions.
#50: White fragility: “A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable [for White people], triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.” Robin DiAngelo (2011)
#51: White privilege: The unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because of their whiteness. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.
#52: White Supremacy: a racist ideology based upon the belief that white people are superior to people of other races and that therefore white people should be dominant over other races.
 It is important to note here the geographical context in which BIPoC is used, particularly in relation to the term ‘indigenous’. For example in the UK – the metropole – ‘indigenous people’, in the very literal sense, are White British, a group which does not, nor has ever, experienced racism. Remaining cautious when exercising this acronym in the name of anti-racist work is vital, so as the term is not co-opted and used against the cause.
 DiAngelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3, 54–70