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Recognition and the Other
Unformatted Document Text:  Recognition and the Other, p. 8 involuntarily imposed identity is to overemphasize individual choice and de-emphasize social power. Ironically, the communitarian Walzer shares this error with the very postmodernists he critiques when he argues against Kristeva’s claim that "everyone is a stranger." "But if everyone is a stranger, than no one is. For unless we experience sameness in some strong form, we cannot even recognize otherness in ourselves." (Walzer, 1997, 89.) The problem with Walzer’s claim is the totalizing presupposition -- why is the ubiquity of strangeness self-negating? People can be simultaneously individuals and members of groups, just as they can be simultaneously strangers and share the common trait of strangeness. The existential universality of otherness does not erase it, nor does or should it prevent us from making qualitative distinctions about the experience of otherness. Arendt (1958) helps parse this seeming paradox. "Human plurality, the basic condition of both action and speech, has the twofold character of equality and distinction… In man, otherness, which he shares with everything that is, and distinctness, which he shares with everything alive, become uniqueness, and human plurality is the paradoxical plurality of unique beings" (1958, 175-176). Thus to talk about the social construction of identity is to talk within the paradox of plurality. It is, in short, to talk about moral others and public discourse. The Other In recent literature, one can identify two readings of the "other." In post-modern and post-colonial literatures, writers like Edward Said eloquently critique the way West creates the "other,"the dispossessed, a blank field onto which the dominant projects the shadow -- the repressed, dark, the feared, the strange. In this context, the other is without humanity and without legitimacy. The other is strange and unfamiliar, and in this sense is un-familied, not one of us. Estranged. (THE OED Stranger: I. 1. a. Of persons, language, customs, etc.: Of or

Authors: Lipari, Lisbeth.
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Recognition and the Other, p. 8
involuntarily imposed identity is to overemphasize individual choice and de-emphasize social
power. Ironically, the communitarian Walzer shares this error with the very postmodernists he
critiques when he argues against Kristeva’s claim that "everyone is a stranger." "But if everyone
is a stranger, than no one is. For unless we experience sameness in some strong form, we cannot
even recognize otherness in ourselves." (Walzer, 1997, 89.) The problem with Walzer’s claim is
the totalizing presupposition -- why is the ubiquity of strangeness self-negating? People can be
simultaneously individuals and members of groups, just as they can be simultaneously strangers
and share the common trait of strangeness. The existential universality of otherness does not
erase it, nor does or should it prevent us from making qualitative distinctions about the
experience of otherness. Arendt (1958) helps parse this seeming paradox.
"Human plurality, the basic condition of both action and speech, has the twofold character
of equality and distinction… In man, otherness, which he shares with everything that is,
and distinctness, which he shares with everything alive, become uniqueness, and human
plurality is the paradoxical plurality of unique beings" (1958, 175-176).
Thus to talk about the social construction of identity is to talk within the paradox of
plurality. It is, in short, to talk about moral others and public discourse.
The Other
In recent literature, one can identify two readings of the "other." In post-modern and
post-colonial literatures, writers like Edward Said eloquently critique the way West creates the
"other,"the dispossessed, a blank field onto which the dominant projects the shadow -- the
repressed, dark, the feared, the strange. In this context, the other is without humanity and
without legitimacy. The other is strange and unfamiliar, and in this sense is un-familied, not one
of us. Estranged. (THE OED Stranger: I. 1. a. Of persons, language, customs, etc.: Of or


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