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Journal of Hospital Medicine Apologizes for Using the Words Tribe and Tribalism

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Robby Soave | 6.4.2021 3:30 PM

Last month, the Journal of Hospital Medicine published an article titled, "Tribalism: The Good, the Bad, and the Future." It proposed strategies for medical professionals to overcome some of the natural group clustering that occurs in any large workspace: launch interdepartmental projects, socialize outside of the office, etc.

Blandly inoffensive, right? Wrong.

The article's authors issued an apology last week for using insensitive language and thus committing a microaggression against marginalized people. "Despite pre- and post-acceptance manuscript review and discussion by a diverse and thoughtful team of editors, we did not appreciate how particular language in this article would be hurtful to some communities," they wrote in a statement.

The problem, evidently, was the use of the words tribe and tribalism. While no one who reviewed or edited the piece within the Journal itself had any objection to this terminology—which is widely used in the media, particularly political journalism—a few people on Twitter complained about it. In response, the writers unpublished the article, purged the offensive words, and republished it with silos and siloing in place of tribes and tribalism.

The authors explain:

From this experience, we learned that the words "tribe" and "tribalism" have no consistent meaning, are associated with negative historical and cultural assumptions, and can promote misleading stereotypes.4 The term "tribe" became popular as a colonial construct to describe forms of social organization considered "uncivilized" or "primitive." In using the term "tribe" to describe members of medical communities, we........

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