The concept of those that are considered “the others” is always a very interesting topic, yet also a very slippery slope from my perspective. People who I personally consider outsiders in my personal life are those who I have had minimal to no interaction with or those who I know so little about that I haven’t formed an opinion about. But I also belong to big communities like Dickinson College, and the people I consider belong are those who enroll as students or faculty and the outsiders to that community are people who have never attended or worked at Dickinson. Now there’s a complication because there are certainly people at Dickinson I see as outsiders to my personal life, yet I still say they belong in my college community. I think that people who are “outsiders” are entirely dependent on the situation being talked about.
A great example for a community I feel I care most about the concept of belongingness and outsiders is my college track & field team. If you’re on the same team as me, I feel like I already know things about you before I even have my first conversation with you. Because the track & field community is such a specific niche that requires certain interests and traits, I already know we likely share things like the same interest in running and a commitment to a long non-linear process of progression that isn’t for those without passion for the sport. In the scope of who I consider belongs to the track & field community at Dickinson, it’s those on the team because we have enough similar values to unite us into a collective unit despite any personal differences. The outsiders in this scope are simply everyone else not on the team, because they don’t belong in the track & field community since they don’t share those uniting bonds of the specific passion and interest the members of the team have.
Now in this example the other athletic groups on campus can be considered the plural others. We don’t practice together, spend as much time with each other, and don’t share similar athletic goals. Because of this, it’s common to judge and label the individuals of another team by referring to them by their athletic group reputation and values instead of their own individual ones. They become the plural others in my perception of who belongs to the track & field community at Dickinson, even though we all belong to the student-athlete community. This can affect perception in both positive and negative ways. Starting with the negative, jealousy and increased misplaced resentment can arise. Say another athletic team gets an increase in funding and track doesn’t, even though we really need funding to improve our facilities to host competitions. The people belonging to the track & field community might say negative things about the team that got the funding even though it was entirely not the fault of the athletes on said team. A positive example would be that seeing lots of groups of plural others can facilitate interest. In terms of the track & field community I see the other teams as outsiders, but the lack of information and connection makes me curious as to how they differ from the track community. When I go out of my way to talk to these other athletes and learn about their sport or just see the different mix of personalities that make up their group, I always find that I have a newfound respect or admiration for them. Just because they are on the outside of my particular community doesn’t mean we cannot be friends or respect on another.
When talking about the context of international politics, I know my mind immediately jumps to nations identifying those who belong as citizens and the plural others become the citizens of other nations. Even though Americans might distinguish themselves by things like city or political party to decide if other Americans belong in their community, the whole nation might view two wildly different cities or groups with different cultures or views in Italy as just an Italian. This dynamic of viewing peoples of other nations to our own as outsides can potentially cause good things like increased interest or a desire to leave one’s comfort zone of belongingness, but it can also potentially lead to dangerous hyper-nationalist tendencies like xenophobia and hasty uninformed generalizations about a nation’s people.