I have been somewhat obsessed with the idea of “otherness” from the very beginning of the semester I have been attempting to box this term, only to realize that I too am othering that which others…others(?). I find it to be such a curious concept; othering refers to the act of classifying a person or a particular group as an “other”, or in other words, not like yourself. Therefore, by othering we dehumanize an individual by stripping away their entire being; emotions, thoughts, ideas, and etc to group them as an “other” based on the premise that they don’t fit into a (Y)our particular box. It is truthfully almost as if by othering we are forcefully giving out identities as if there were an alarming deficit or as if people were unable or just unwise to do it themselves.
While watching the video provided for this week I was caught offhand by Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s quote “It is the analytical leap from the practice of veiling to an assertion of its general significance in controlling women that must be questioned” and I couldn’t help but picture the image provided below. Othering women by confining them to oppressive measures. On page 75 Said describes that of the “Oriental Woman” as one that
“never spoke of herself, she never represented her emotions, presence, or history. He spoke for and represented her” (Said Page 75).
When I learned and became familiar with the many aspect of Otherness, I found that I was better able to define and understand Orientalism as concept of confusion as well. I’m rather fond of Edward W. Said’s definition of Orientalism in his article “Introduction to Orientalism” He defines it as “A style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between “the Orient” and (most of the time) “the Occident.” The countries in the west; Europe and America is what is meant by Occident. Straightforward and to the point, yes?
Instinctively I couldn’t help but place the idea of Orientalism to a that of our modern world. Furthermore, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else noticed that Orientalism seemed like a very European trait; to think of those different than them as lesser and not worthy. A theory Said also noticed, he writes
“One ought to assume that the structure of Orientalism is nothing more than a structure of lies or of myths which were, the truth about them to be told, would simply blow away. I myself believe that Orientalism is more particularly valuable as a sign of European-Atlantic power over the Orient than it is as a verdict discourse about the Orient” (Said page 75).
So, in essence, power once again comes into play. So, othering is more (a lot more) than a trivial dislike of that which is different. But rather it is a fear of loss of status and power, and fear of being lost in the abyss of otherness like the others already labeled. A fear of losing that which is considered a powerful identity.
I can’t help but think of our current societal/political climate.
I think we’re being othered.