Otherness 2/21

In thinking about communities and the concept of “otherness,” my first thought is how I personally have experienced the feeling of being an “other” in my lifetime. Any and every group is its own community, and therefore there are outsiders and others. I moved at the age of ten and started a new school in a new town, in a new state. I was new to the community, and therefore, for a little while, I was an outsider, or an other.

While I was in a similar situation at the beginning of last semester as a new college student, this was fundamentally different because I was one of many students who were at a new school in a new place. Now that I feel I have integrated into Dickinson fully, I can take notice of groups who are outsiders or others on campus. First I think of the international students, particularly those whose first language is not English. My hometown has a significant population of Spanish-speaking individuals, and as one might expect in an area that is otherwise English-speaking, in high school these students tended to congregate together. Similarly, at Dickinson, international students tend to congregate with those who are from similar areas and/or speak the same language, which of course makes sense. The biggest difference between these two situations is that Dickinson has students who speak many different languages, whereas in my hometown, there was really only a population of students who spoke Spanish.

However, I also think that the concept of “othering” is subjective. For myself, I would consider athletes to be an “other” group, because I am not an athlete nor are most of my friends, and they tend to spend a lot of their time together. Whereas I’m sure athletes would consider non-athlete students to be “others.”

While I understand that the social ramifications of “othering” may mean that people don’t always branch out in their friend groups or social circles, I also don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing. People are by default more comfortable with those who are similar and like-minded. I do believe that at times it is definitely a good thing to interact with people who are different than you, and to challenge your beliefs and ideas, but I do not think we should fault those who primarily group themselves with similar people. It is simply human instinct to do so.

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