Who are “others”?

February 19, 2024 | | 1 Comment

To be an “other” is to be an outsider. This typically means that the person or group of others is hard for the community to understand. For example, at Dickinson College I am a member of a Panhellenic sorority. If you ask people in Greek life about ritual events it is normal to them. It is part of their community—it is what they are used to. However, if anyone else who is not in Greek life would very confused and most likely think it is not normal. The “other” depends on whose side you are looking at. For me, I am an insider in Greek life, it is my community and my culture. However, for athletes or people who are not a member in Greek life my community is seen as the “others”. When there is a group of “others” typically you only see their one “thing” that makes them different and overlook any other identities the group may have. This type of “other” is a group of others, but still, there can be individual others.

My sorority sisters and I on Bid Day Spring 2024

 Not only are there individual “others”, but there can be “others” within a group. This can happen for multiple reasons. The person could have cultural, financial, religious, etc.  differences from the group they are in. As well, the person might just not fit due to personalities within the group. This can cause tensions within communities, and there can be tensions between groups due to the idea of each other being “outsiders”.

This is what happens in international politics at times. Two countries see each other as an outsider. The other country could have a different type of governments, such as a democracy, monarchy, theocracy, dictatorship. This can result in countries going to war or at least not being willing to work together on international treaties or policies. This is along the same idea that democracies don’t go to war with other democracies but go to war with non-democracies, and non-democracies go to war with everyone. This is because even though there might be other differences between democracies, they have a unifying factor of being a democracy.

Every time there is an “other” I think there is also a “same”. What I mean by this is that in the community there are people who have connections because not only are they a part of the same larger community, but because there is another unifying connection. This could be two people who play on the same athletics team in college, but they are also from the same hometown.

Reuters/EPA Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Politically the idea of “same” is why certain states are allies and “others” are why certain states are not allies. For example, in the Middle East Iran and Saudi Arabia are rivals as they see each other as different and others. In Iran the majority of the people are Shia Muslim and in Saudi Arabia the majority of the people are Sunni Muslim. As well, Saudi Arabia is a Sunni Islamic theocracy and Iran is a Shia Islamic theocracy. This is important because it is not just the Saudis and the Iranians citizens, but the leaders of the governments are different. The historic tensions between the two sects has continued today. Even though Sunni and Shia are both part of Islam there are enough differences between the groups that they see each other as “others”. There are additional reasons for Saudi Arabia and Iran to be rivals but religion is arguably only one of them.

Map showing Shia distribution in Middle EastMap showing Sunni distribution in Middle East

I grew up in a town very similar to where I live now. In fact, Pittsford, NY and Carlisle, PA are almost the same place but in different states. Both towns are certified historic towns. Pittsford was settled in 1789 but did not become popular until the Erie Canal was built. This allowed for the semi remote village to become interconnected with other cities and villages and quickly becoming a popular shipping port . Carlisle history, while slightly different, has similar aspects. Carlisle was established in 1751, played a role in the American Revolutionary war, the Whiskey Rebellion .

Carlisle, PA

Pittsford, NY

It is not just the history of the two towns that is similar. But the culture and aesthetic that is similar. Side by side are two photos of each of the towns. just looking at the photos it is hard to tell a difference. However, in person it is not much easier. During the fall of my freshmen year, a friend from home visited and she remarked how strange it was to be in a town that looks like the Village (that’s what we called downtown Pittsford) but not actually there. I think one of the reasons I fell in love with Dickinson was because it reminded me of my hometown. Pittsford is also a college town; Nazareth College is located roughly 1.5 miles down main road. So, it is a little bit farther down the street than Dickinson is, but it is still a college town.

However, compared to Sharjah, Carlisle and Pittsford are tiny specks of towns. Both in history and size. Known history of Sharjah goes back at least 5000. Which is about 4727 years older than Carlisle and 4765 years older than Pittsford. So, while my towns are considered “old” and “historic” for the United States of American when you compare that of the history and age of Sharjah it is little to nothing. Carlisle and Pittsford are both towns but relatively large ones, 22,203 and 30,346 respectively 22,203 and 30,346 respectively . While I knew that there was going to be a large difference in the populations, I was still surprised to see that 1,872,199 people live in Sharjah live in Sharjah . It would take around 84 Carlisles to make up the population of Sharjah.

At Dickinson, in my opinion the majority of students are from the United States of America but there is a relatively large population of international students. As well, almost all of the students here at Dickinson live on campus, either in dorms or apartments owned by the school. (insert a photo of a dorm). From my conversations with the AUS students, I believe that many of the students are originally from UAE and moved with their families to Sharjah or are from other countries and moved to Sharjah. As well, very few of the students live “on campus” or in dorms but live with their families. Possibly having to have around an hour of commuting to class. Which is a very different experience than I have where I live about a minute walk from  Denny Hall where our class meets.

Culturally Carlisle and Pittsford are very different from Sharjah. The towns I grew up in are majority white, Christian, and English speaking. It is very common to have a few bars in the towns. In Sharjah, majority of the population is Arab, Muslim, and Arabic is the most popular language, but many people also speak at least a little English. As well, Sharjah is the only city in the Emirates to ban the sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol . Even though there are many differences culturally, when I was talking with the students in AUS, I found that we had more similarities than differences, at least in the brief conversations we had. I found that there was a common shared love of traveling, reading, the shows that people were watching.


Carlisle photo

Pittsford photo