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The Issue of “Othering” in Literature

The issue of “othering” was studied by plenty of authors. However, the need to examine the current situation remains. In this connection, in Frantz Fanon’s “The Fact of Blackness”, Nina McConigley’s “White Wedding”, and Eula Biss’ “White Debt” the act of “othering” and its impact as a generating factor of inequality in the multicultural global world contributes to feelings of alienation, inferiority, and discomfort in one’s own skin as well as a state of uncertainty in one’s culture and identification.

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It seems appropriate to consider every essay in detail. Frantz Fanon is a French-speaking West Indian revolutionary, social philosopher, and psychoanalyst, as well as one of the theorists and ideologists of the revolutionary struggle for decolonization of the Third World. In his “The Fact of Blackness” essay, Fanon severely denounces racism and colonialism (1).

The author leads to the idea that the nature of mental disorders that are the result of the “othering” depends on the person belonging to a different social class, and that the treatment of personality disorders is possible through a change in the social system. However, critically rethinking the works of Nietzsche, Freud, and Sartre, Fanon comes to the conclusion that it is impossible to resolve racial problems using the theory of psychoanalysis (11). Claiming that there is no white world, white ethics, and white intelligence, he explains the inadequacy of the behavior of complex black inferiority.

In the essay, the author identifies two key problems. The first one is the isolation of Blacks in their blackness along with the ways to bleaching it. According to Fanon, the religious (Christian) education and training are regarded as the most effective “whitening” measures. The second problem is the appearance of inadequate response among the Black people, both Africans, and non-Africans. The author called it “pro-white anti-black paranoia”.

The origins of conceptual constructs of Fanon lay in the analysis of the interaction of European-centered culture and discourses, in particular, philosophy with the “other” cultural traditions, the representation of the possibility of the latter issues in the European context and the consequences that entails the domination of “Europeanism” of non-European people, primarily representing the Negro race. Evropocentristic culture acts in this perspective of analysis, from the point of Fanon, as the obsession threatening complete depersonalization of “others” as it immerses the “othering” in the non-existence tends to displace it as barbaric.

Such a collision is most fully grasped by contrasting and analyzing the positions of colonizing and colonized ones, namely, White and Black people, occupied by them within the ambiguous colonial situation. In order to counter the first, “others” should seek by all means return to their forgotten cultural origins and original identity. As soon as colonialism denies the nation time, it is necessary to go back to it, but through the denial of the colonial period, and writing the history of decolonization (Izenberg 316).

The second duality reflected by the author is the opposition of Europeans’ and of native humans’ economic reality. The colonial situation can be understood in both its dichotomies as the Manichean opposition of two principles irreconcilable with each other and inevitably resort to the use of violence in response to violence. Thus, Fanon claims that blackness is a constructive identity that exists for the purpose of distinguishing between Black and White societies that should be addressed.

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What is more, in her “White Wedding”, Nina McConigley tells the story connected to the issue of racism. Lakshmi (“Lucky”) is half Indian and half white and senses that she cannot fit the world (McConigley 1). Lucky considers her Indian mother’s death while being at her sister’s wedding. The narrator speculates that people react differently to exotic things. However, the majority of guests were from New York and usually reacted to Indians while in Wyoming they usually caused the amazement and might be treated unfairly (McConigley 2).

The whole story is full of metaphors that penetrate into the inner world of the verisimilitude character and culture of the biracial people. In particular, skin that plays a crucial part in the identity and “othering” becomes the paramount metaphor. In the interview with The Huffington Post, McConigley shares that she still considers the issue written in “White Wedding” (Melle par. 8).

Precisely speaking, the author speculates over the ways to resolve the situation and improve it as well her background, namely upbringing in Wyoming, the extremes, and different kinds of people that pushed her to write the essay. All in all, McConigley comes to the conclusion that the “othering” affects the person’s identification and causes the identity crisis.

In addition, another essay under discussion is Eula Biss’ “White Debt”. The author discusses the racial privilege referring to the moral debt of the White population, according to African Americans. It is rather significant to point out that she associates the concept of debt with a sense of guilt. Biss believes that “Whiteness is not a kinship or a culture. White people are no more closely related to one another, genetically, than we are to black people” (4).

Therefore, White people are in a moral debt for the past before African Americans. Focusing on works of Nietszche, Biss interprets the issue of racism in the framework of the modern world calling to blur the boundaries of “othering”. The author, therefore, indicates that the basic concepts of moral consciousness – “responsibility”, “conscience”, and “debt” are historically formed purely in human terms and criteria.

Biss brilliantly demonstrates and proves that it is impossible to talk about suffering without regard to anything whatsoever that there is a great human goal that is the human development itself, which is more important than avoiding cruelty. The elimination of inequality can perform different functions in the socialization of humans: it can be an instrument of human independence release and culture development.

However, Lundblad reveals the opposition to Biss’ opinion: “Speaking of white people as “moral debtors” obscures the fact that much of the debt owed by white people is in fact material; we are material debtors” (6). Lundblad argues that Biss substitutes the moral and material guilt. Moreover, according to Lundblad, Biss’ arguments concerning debt are not clear and do not point the damage made by White people – whether it is interpersonal or relational.

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In conclusion, it should be stressed that the issue of “othering” is clearly illustrated in the interpreted essays. Moreover, authors believe that people should address those issues in the context of the modernization. Fanon, McConigley, and Biss investigate the concept of “othering” from different angles –as Black inferiority, identity crisis, and moral debt respectively. All in all, the mentioned works seem rather important and interesting as they reveal various visions of the problem and concern the modern issues of globalization.

Works Cited

Biss, Eula. “White Debt.The New York Times. 2015. Web.

Fanon, Frantz. “The Fact of Blackness.Villanova University. 2008. Web.

Izenberg, Gerald N. Identity: The Necessity of a Modern Idea, Philadelphia, PA: U of Pennsylvania, 2016. Print.

Lundblad, Allie. “Responsible Beyond Debt: A Response to Eula Biss’s White Debt.” Constructive Theologies. 2016. Web.

Melle, Stacy Parker Le. “Belonging to Wyoming, Belonging to the World: An Interview With Author Nina McConigley.The Huffington Post. 2014. Web.

McConigley, Nina. “White Wedding.” Memorious 17. n.d. Web.

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