Problematization of a term, writing, opinion, ideology, identity, or person is to consider the concrete or existential elements of those involved as challenges (problems) that invite the people involved to transform those situations. It is a method of defamiliarization of common sense.
Problematization is a critical thinking and pedagogical dialogue or process and may be considered demythicisation. Rather than taking the common knowledge (myth) of a situation for granted, problematization poses that knowledge as a problem, allowing new viewpoints, consciousness, reflection, hope, and action to emerge.
What may make problematization different from other forms of criticism is its target, the context and details, rather than the pro or con of an argument. More importantly, this criticism does not take place within the original context or argument, but draws back from it, re-evaluates it, leading to action which changes the situation. Rather than accepting the situation, one emerges from it, abandoning a focalised viewpoint.
To problematize a statement, for example, one asks simple questions:
- Who is making this statement?
- For whom is he or she making it?
- Why is this statement being made here, now?
- Whom does this statement benefit?
- Whom does it harm?
The term is also used in association with actor–network theory (ANT), and especially the "sociology of translation" to describe the initial phase of a translation process and the creation of a network. According to Michel Callon, problematization involves two elements:
- Interdefinition of actors in the network
- Definition of the problem/topic/action program, referred to as an obligatory passage point (OPP)