“In light of readings on Orientalism and the concept of self and other, think about your community (your home, Dickinson, some other community in which you are involved) and consider who belongs and who is an outsider. What group or groups do you experience primarily as plural others, rather than as individuals? How does that affect your perceptions of them? What are the social and practical effects of othering?”
I believe growing up in a town and culture such as mine, groups are often less about physical characteristics and more about beliefs and values, like niches in a high school. However, sometimes these lines can become blurred (which personally I try to do, as to prevent myself from having preconceived perceptions about people). The most visible plural other that I have experienced is through politics, dividing people as democrats, republicans, libertarians, liberals, conservatives, socialists, etc. While appearing innocent at first, as its based off beliefs and not something that can’t be changed (like race and ethnicity), it can be dangerous and dividing none-the-less. It can cause me to “know” what a person believes before I ever get to know them, through a snap judgment. The social and practical effects of this could especially be seen during this recent election cycle, with the fierce partisanship dividing both the government and everyday people, with riots and violence becoming an everyday occurrence. Othering as a whole seems to repeatedly cause a deep divide between groups, and oftentimes can lead to violence and atrocities in the name of eliminating the “other.” The concept has been used at times for somewhat beneficial reasons, such as rallying people behind as cause such as war. However, the implications can sometimes be detrimental, with the harbored feelings introduced by the othering often lasting much longer than the conflict itself. As we’ve learned about orientalism, I think that while there is an image of innocence to it, (such as the movie Aladdin), it’s still a detriment to establishing proper relations between the “east” and the “west.” Through education about the matter such as this class, the idea of orientalism will slowly be disproven, and hopefully killed off.
When studying the Middle East and its culture, it can be hard at times to fully grasp and understand the actions and traditions of its inhabitants. Growing up in Appalachia, my home life and upbringing were obviously very different from someone in a place such as Jordan or Syria. This upbringing and varied life experiences will act as a barrier between understandings. We likely will not see eye to eye on the importance and urgency of matters regarding both domestic and foreign policies. For example, a student my age from Riyadh may see access to water as a more pressing issue than I do, or an adult from Baghdad may have a more passionate opinion on the U.S. Invasion of Iraq in 2003. In addition, growing up in a suburban/rural area in America means that my culture and way of life will likely be very alien to someone from anywhere in the Middle East or North Africa. However, in my experience, some of the best ways to overcome these barriers are through personal conversations and friendships. As long as one goes in with an open mind to listen to other and thick skin to not be offended, you can develop a mutual understanding and overcome any barriers.