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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P305)

Different others

Location Tower A, Piso 0, Room 5
Date and Start Time 20 Apr, 2011 at 11:30

Convenors

Cristina Bettin (Ben-Gurion University) email
Line Alice Ytrehus (NLA University College) email
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Short Abstract

The aim of the panel is to discuss how perceptions of different others change, the theoretical and methodological toolbox in research dealing with different others, conditions for inclusion and our ethical responsibilities for intercultural understanding.

Long Abstract

Markers of differences between 'us' and 'others' are implicit in collective identity processes and construct borders between insiders and outsiders, belonging and non-belonging, normal and abnormal. However, the different other is not only an outsider but also among us. Various theories of 'outcasts' are represented in humanities and social sciences. Several definitions of the term 'outcast' might be keys to readings of the concept, because the distinctions between insiders and outsiders are always in processes of change according to places and time (see Bauman). The construction of collective identity through negative images of different others has shown its force and impact throughout history. An understanding of the organization of differences, whether marked by ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or other signifiers, its functions and consequences, is a prerequisite to understanding processes of marginalization.

The questions to be discussed are: How have the perceptions of different others changed in time and place? What are the emerging images of different others and why? Why are some markers of otherness so persistent while other 'aliens' are ignored?

What are the conditions for inclusion of different others?

What ethical responsibilities and what kind of theoretical and methodological toolbox should cultural researchers use in contemporary multicultural societies? Can or should research counteract exclusion and xenophobic images, emotions and attitudes?

The panel welcomes papers with theoretical, ethical and empirical approaches to the functions and consequences of perceptions of different others and how to deal with them.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

When "us" can be the "others": spatial identities in Lisbon's Parque das Nações

Author: Maria Assunção Gato (Dinamia-CET /ISCTE-IUL)  email
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Short Abstract

In the Parque das Nações we can observe a sense of place developed between the residents and their area, and also a sense of selective avoidance directed at ‘others’ in different scales.

Long Abstract

Parque das Nações is the most recent neighbourhood of the Lisbon city, inherited from the World Exhibition Expo'98. Focusing analysis solely on the perspectives of the residents, it is the aim of this paper to illustrate the role that this space assumes in the dynamics of identity and social differentiation perceived at two distinct scales: 1) the Parque das Nações and its residents as opposed to the outside world; 2) where people live as the differentiating element within the Parque das Nações.

Nonetheless, it is important to mention that the intelligibility of these two scales depends on two factors that are intrinsic to this area. On the one hand, it is divided by its peripheral situation in the context of the city of Lisbon and by the fact that it is split between the municipalities of Lisbon and Loures. On the other hand, the attraction of a large number of visitors by the scale and quality of the public spaces, and especially the predominance of visitors coming from the surrounding areas of Loures, serves to unite the residents and to avoid the presence of 'others'.

Islanders, others and other islanders

Author: Owe Ronström (Ethnology)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper examines how identities are negotiated in Gotland, the biggest island in Sweden; how old notions such as 'islander' and 'mainlander' are spelled out and reshaped in the context of 'multiculturality'; and how new "third spaces" are formed.

Long Abstract

This paper examines how identities are negotiated and spelled out in Gotland, the biggest island in Sweden. Since long Gotland have been a favorite summer destination. The yearly interaction between up to a million visitors that come to appreciate the islands perceived remoteness, endemism and archaism, and the less than 60 000 islanders striving to keep up to modern life expectancies, have petrified an old border between 'islander' and 'mainlander'. Since long, 'belonging' and the notion of 'islander identity' has been seen as growing out of place and the island condition. In recent years, however, the old categories have been reshaped in the context of migration and 'multiculturality'. One category of islanders have become 'gutar', presuming an original island status. A new "third space" have been created, inhabited by a new category of 'Gotlanders', people of many origins that are neither islanders nor mainlanders. Thus not only local identity categories have changed; also the notion of multiculturality have been spelled out in a radically different way than in most urban centers in Sweden and other parts of North Europe. The paper argues that these recent changes notwithstanding, the relation to place, to the island and to the island life, is still the core of belonging and identity.

My heritage and everybody's

Author: Lars-Eric Jönsson (Lund University)  email
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Short Abstract

”Heritage for All” has become a slogan in the Swedish cultural heritage field to avoid cultural heritage being a matter of a few and not accessible to all citizens. But how does the word ”all” and ”heritage” relate to each other? And how has marginalized social categories been treated when heritage is considered a concern for everyone?

Long Abstract

"Heritage for All" has become a slogan in the Swedish cultural heritage field to avoid cultural heritage being a matter of a few and not accessible to all citizens. But how does the word "all" and "heritage" relate to each other? And how has marginalized social categories been treated when heritage is considered a concern for everyone?

In Sweden, since 1970's, cultural heritage has been at the welfare state services. In the 1990s this service was directed to democracy, tolerance and equality. From a European perspective, the cultural heritage had similar goals. The Council of Europe talks about tolerance, acceptance and certainty. As in Sweden there is concern that the past can also be used for other, opposite ends. Cultural heritage has always produced majorities and thus minorities.

From the Indian anthropologist Arjun Appadurai risks are discussed in relationships between majorities and minorities, risks in contrast to political goals of tolerance, democracy and equality. To gain recognition as a cultural collective requires a past. The cultural heritage appears in this sense as a political resource, in itself neither good nor evil, which can be used for various purposes.

Distinctions inside the class: folk views on plebeian inner differences

Author: Eija Stark (University of Helsinki)  email
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Short Abstract

The themes and motifs of social distinctions are representations of cultural knowledge that can be studied from reading different folklore and narrative genres across. In my presentation, I revise the social relations inside one class, the rural working class people in 19th century Finland.

Long Abstract

In my presentation, I focus on the ways the 19th century common people - those who belonged to the lower strata of Finnish rural society - expressed and manifested social distinctions among their equals. Who were the others inside one social class? This question is based on the premise that no class is ever uniform and without inner tensions and therefore I explore the procedures through which social boundaries were kept alive and the ways how they were contested among the non-elite people. Social and economic conditions have had a great influence on the themes and motifs of folklore and therefore it is important to ask, who are these people marked in the folklore and how social boundaries were kept alive? I look for the answers of the questions above by combining different folklore genres: proverbs, legends, fairytales and personal life histories that have been collected into the Folklore Archive of the Finnish Literature Society. The vantage point of my presentation is in the thematic dimension of folklore and narrative genres. Genres are not proportional and therefore I will look how different genres dictate the limits of communication and what kinds of working arrangements different genres have in cultural communication.

Representing the "other" in India

Author: Sandra Marques (CRIA-IUL)  email
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Short Abstract

Representations of the other in India seem to have always been distinct from the ones found in Europe. With this analysis, I suggest that the construction of otherness can be subjected to processes and results as distinct as the body of meanings employed in the encoding of the information perceived.

Long Abstract

The representation of the other in India seems to have always been significantly distinct from the one found in Europe. As in present days (as far as it has been possible for me to verify over my fieldwork research periods since 2004), while the set of dichotomizing dialectics between Indians/others does not seem to raise interest, their representations being limited to "foreigner", the "non-Indian", several authors confirm that until the 1800s, are found no signs of interest in approaching a systematic discussion of behaviours, practices or beliefs of the many "foreigners" or "foreign religions", of "Muslims" in particular or even the indigenous "Buddhism". With this analysis, I suggest that the representational construction of otherness can be subjected to processes and results as distinct as the body of meanings employed in the logic to the encoding, storage and retrieval of the information perceived. Becoming evident as a mark of European originality, the systematization and imposition (reason why it can be designated as project) of a hierarchized taxonomic objectification of otherness through racial signifiers.

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"Ugly outside but beautiful when you come closer": territorial stigma and internal variety in an urban Roma ghetto from Romania

Author: Zsuzsa Plainer (ISPMN (the Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities) )  email
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Short Abstract

Making and reinforcement of a territorial stigma (Wacquant) is prior for this paper. Acknowledging capacities of place as border-maker, its influence on separating „Roma” from „non-Roma”, the „civilized” from the „uncivilized”, ghetto-residents from other district dwellers is followed. Giving a closer look to the site, a Romanian urban ghetto with a majority of Roma residents, fluidity in othering becomes salient: labels as „uncivilized” Roma are less connected to ethno-ratial belonging.

Long Abstract

Local institutions label them "violent", "aggressive" and "not cooperative", non-Roma and Roma residents from the neighbouring buildings see them as inhabitants of the "Gypsy area"; hence, dwellers of the Galilei Street "green block of flat" could be described by the notion of territorial stigma coined by Louïs Wacquant. True, the ghetto could be a typical image of mediatising Romanian urban poverty: bed smelling garbage, plaster falling down, misery in many apartments, hostility of the locals towards everyone from the "outer world". Coming closer to the isolated green-block-world, picture becomes nuanced: despite the homogeneous stigma, better-off Roma and non-Roma are meeting here poor Roma or non-Roma ghetto-dwellers, all categories having different attitudes towards the researcher. After tracing historical reasons on making and reinforcement of the territorial stigma, my paper raises the question of fluency in othering. Getting familiar with the "green block", one comes aware that categories discerning ghetto-people from the district into "poor", "aggressive" "Roma" (altering "civilized" "non-Roma") are reproduced in the green block, but act separately from ethno-racial belonging and material condition. Such internal differences are, too, examined in the context of mistrust towards the researcher: acceptance of a person - identified with NGO activists who "use" the locals - depends on how ghetto-people identify themselves with stigmas. The ones, who accept their "poor Roma"-labels are less eager to cooperate than ghetto-residents separating themselves from the "uncivilized neighbours".

From the margins of society into conflicts: the Roma in Romania

Author: Stefania Toma (Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper based on triangulating research methods argues that issues of perception of "different Other" - how the local Roma communities are seen, how conflicts are interpreted and represented by local actors above all - plays a fundamental role in the evolution of conflictual situations.

Long Abstract

In Romania there have been two waves of ethnic conflicts between Roma and the local majority population since 1990 involving 75 events that reached the national or international mass media.

The author has been trying to find social patterns and therefore explanatory mechanisms for these conflicts. Toma shows that we should see ethnic conflicts as proceses with demographic, social-economic, legislative/institutional, symbolic-attitude and conflict-management traditions shaping their development.

Many authors have argued that the issue of segregation leads to the development of a local "critical mass" of conflictual situations which in turn result in the formation of a "conflictual cloud". This conflictual cloud contributes to the intensification of conflict. Finally, one of a number of factors or events serve as the "last drop', tipping tension into an open conflict. This paper argues that issues of perception - how conflicts are interpreted and represented by local actors above all - plays a fundamental role in the evolution of these situations. The idea of the last drop is itself a matter of perception - it is not the cause of a conflict emerging but itself part of the representation of the conflict.

The paper uses two main sources of data. First, a survey targeted at social workers in 1,900 rural communities which aimed to discover how the institutional relationship between the local authorities and the Roma effected the perception of conflict. Second, fieldwork in two communities demonstrates that while conflicts may arise out of marginalization, how these conflicts develop varies radically.

Enemy at the gates: (no) borders and the national security myth

Author: Alexandra Schwell (LMU Munich)  email
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Short Abstract

Drawing on field research in Austrian state institutions and media discourse the paper scrutinizes how the perceived loss of control in the course of the dismantlement of border checks reproduces the concept of an endangered and insecure in-group while reinforcing the myth of the "pure" nation state

Long Abstract

Anti-immigration discourse frequently is framed by parts of the political and media actors as a "contagion" of the "body politic", of an imagined self-contained community or social body that has to be protected from intruders that might do harm to it. This idea of the state, society and polity as the body politic embodies the myth of the sovereign and homogenous nation state as opposed to a potentially dangerous "outside".

Mental boundaries and institutionalized borders both play a pivotal role for the imagined (security) community in the construction of Self and Other and are thus particularly prone to the securitization of external threats from anywhere "behind the border". Thereby an ideal and homogenous in-group is constructed, essentialized and positioned against an equally essentialized and threatening out-group.

But what happens to the in-groups perception of Self and Other when the imagined bulwark suddenly is about to crumble? When the social body, deprived of protection, feels exposed and vulnerable? With the abolishment of border controls in the course of the enlargement of the Schengen zone the symbolic function of the border as "protection" against intruders and other external threats is put to the test.

Drawing on field research in Austrian state institutions and media discourse the paper scrutinizes how the perceived loss of control in the course of the dismantlement of border checks reproduces the concept of the endangered and insecure in-group while reinforcing the myth of the sovereign nation state and the "pure" body politic.

Biopolitical Other (others)

Author: Duško Petrović (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb)  email
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Short Abstract

The paper will analyze the status of different others in what is today often called the 'postmodern condition' on the theoretical level. The paper suggests how the perception of different others, in today's postmodern condition, has shifted towards 'biopolitical Other (others)'.

Long Abstract

The paper will analyze the status of different others in what is today often called the 'postmodern condition' on the theoretical level. The paper suggests how the perception of different others, in today's postmodern condition, has shifted towards 'biopolitical Other (others)'.

As it is commonly known, the markers of differences between 'us' and 'others' are implicit in collective identity processes and they also construct borders between insiders and outsiders. Throughout the modern era (and history) collective identities were primarily built through the negative relation towards the symbolically articulated Other (and concrete 'identified' others).

The standard postmodern view suggests that - in today's 'postmodern condition' - the modern binary divisions, such as those between Nature and Culture, Civilization and Barbarism, Us and Other have come to an end or that the boundaries between them have been blurred.

On the political level, the decline of modern political communities and blurred boundaries between them has as a consequence produced the decline of the symbolically articulated Other.

As a consequence, this paper suggests, there is a dominance of the 'postmodern' biopolitical Other on the level of the Lacanian Real.

The biopolitical Other is characterized by two paradoxical features which accompany one another. It is, at the same time, the threatening monstrous Other and the decomposed, victimized Other, the subject of pity and compassion.

The paper examines cases of violence without borders, wars and immigration explaining why the dominance of the biopolitical Other occurred and the possible alternatives.

Different others and conditions for inclusion

Authors: Line Alice Ytrehus (NLA University College)  email
Cristina Bettin (Ben-Gurion University)  email
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Short Abstract

The aim of the paper is to present some ideas and theoretical tools in research dealing with different others, and to discuss conditions for inclusion and possible ethical implications.

Long Abstract

Markers of differences between "us" and "others" are implicit in collective identity processes and construct borders between insiders and outsiders, belonging and non-belonging, normal and abnormal. However, the different other is not only an outsider but also among us. Various theories of "outcasts" are represented in humanities and social sciences. Several definitions of the term "outcast" might be keys to readings of the concept, because the distinctions between insiders and outsiders are always in processes of change according to places and time (see Bauman). Construction of collective identity through negative images of different others have shown its force and impact throughout history. An understanding of the organization of differences, whether marked by ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or by other signifiers, its functions and consequences, is a prerequisite to understand processes of marginalization.

What are the conditions for inclusion of different others?

What ethical responsibilities and what kind of theoretical and methodological tool case should cultural researchers use in contemporary multicultural societies? Can or should research counteract exclusion and xenophobic images, emotions and attitudes?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.