The Problem of Othering

The article titled “The Problem of Othering: Towards Inclusiveness and Belonging” by john a. powell and Stephen Menendian aims to define and illustrate the meaning of “othering” by giving examples of the concept taking effect, most commonly to rally political supporters. In addition, the article also explains the mechanics of “othering”, acknowledging that it is a human instinct to make categorical distinctions. However, as the author stated “the content, definition, and meaning of those categories is not automatic”. Meaning that the issue is still in the end a result of social and ideological factors, and not natural as some extremists would claim. 

Towards the end of the article, the authors discuss solutions to the problem of “othering” and their repercussions. These solutions included segregation, secessionism, assimilation and last but not least belongingness. Segregation was equivalent to adding salt to the wound, secessionism proved to be a temporary fix, and assimilation is inherently hierarchical due to the loss of the identity of the non dominant group. Needlessly to say, belongingness seemed to be the more logical and longer lasting solution of the bunch.

Prior to reading this article I thought I had a good grasp on the idea of “othering” or dehumanising a group of people, whether it is based on physical features or ideological values. However, actually reading about it from a trusted, knowledgeable source shed light on different aspects of “othering” that had never crossed my mind before. For example, the thought or the paradox of segregation being a possible solution to counter “othering” even though a common side effect of “othering” is in fact, segregation. Furthermore, the authors’ description of belongingness solidified a definition that vaguely had in my mind for the longest time, but could never make it clear and simple enough.

Aside from minor ways, like meeting a new friend group or joining a conversation about something which I don’t know much about, I am fortunate enough to say that I have never been subjected to any serious “othering”. In fact, not to be boastful, but I think almost always try my best to make everyone around me feel like they belong in the group, conversation, team etc.

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