Discourses of Othering

Reflection based on Fred Dervin’s paper Discourses of Othering (2014) in International Encyclopedia of Language and Social Interaction (WILEY-BLACKWELL).

“It’s easier to split an atom than a prejudice” – Albert Einstein

Because of students’ increasing intercultural contact in this globalised world, Fred Dervin is leading within the postmodern need to question and re-evaluate everything, and examines the concepts of culture, identity and collectivity and how to deal with these subjects in education. Out current education which is full of examples of historical labels of othering. E.g. Colonisations, indigenous people in Australia, Human zoos, South Africa’s Apartheid, etc. Where the othering identity markers include nationality, race, language, religion, gender, ethnicity, etc. Naturally, our educational institutions are only a representation of the current society, norms, and values thereof, and in there, exists a large variation of othering, both national and cultural:

  • Essentialism
  • Racism
  • Neo-racism (for which culture serves as a proxy for race)
  • Culturalism (culture as an explanation for all)
  • Ethnocentrism sexism
  • Exoticism
  • Islamophobia
  • Occidentalism (Dervin & Gao, 2012)
  • Orientalism

The other is been at the core of Human and Social Sciences (Interdisciplinary concept par excellence; psychology, sociology, philosophy – especially ontology, anthropology, linguistics, theology, archeology, history and gender studies).

Othering (sometimes written as otherising) is an interdisciplinary notion/topic that refers, amongst other things, to differentiating discourses that lead to a moral and political judgment of superiority and inferiority between ‘us’ and ‘them, and within groups. Critical approaches to mothering examine its construction in social interaction and take into account both power relations and the intersectionality of different identity markers. Researchers increasingly pay attention to their own contribution to othering. Othering can lead to racism, sexism and/or bigotry, thus has to be discussed, banished and fought against in educational discourses. Othering discourses that have led to acts such as hatred, killing, terrorism, slavery, genocides, etc., but in daily life show themselves as prejudice, power imbalance, discrimination and patronising attitudes.

Social representation (concept by psychologist Moscovici, 1961) is a system of values, ideas and practices that are shared by people and that enable them to grasp their world but also to interact with others — which is exactly what bothering allows in social interactions.

Thus being aware of the discourses of othering is important and relevant when teaching today’s students any subject, not just history.

“I emphasize in it [my Orientalism] accortdingly that neither the term Orient nor the concept of the West has any ontological stability; each is made up of human effort, partly affirmation, partly identification of the Other.”
―Edward Said

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Analysis of Gyldendal Fagportral

This reflection encompasses the analysis of a teaching material / sequence platform conducted during a lesson.

Teaching Sequence: Southern Africa (for lower secondary school)

Link to the sequence: http://engelsk.gyldendal.dk/en/Indgange/Topics/Friend_or_Foe/Southern_Africa/Goal.aspx

The views on culture presented in the analysis will be marked by colours according to this order:

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Goals
After working with this topic, you should have a knowledge of the recent history of Southern Africa, especially of the countries of South Africa and Zimbabwe, and an understanding of how the interactions between native populations and European colonizers have shaped the modern societies that have now emerged in these countries.

Assessment Criteria:

  1. You should be able to understand both the gist of and specific information in texts on the subject of Southern African history and modern society in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

  2. You should be able to express your knowledge, ideas and opinions concerning aspects of Southern Africa’s history, development and current situation, and take part in discussions on the theme.
  3. You should be able to understand and make active use of a relevant vocabulary within the theme of Southern Africa’s history and development.
  4. You should have a knowledge of the way that historical events can influence the development of a country and the relationship between its citizens. You should also be able to relate this knowledge to your own life and experiences in Denmark.

 

2) Views of culture

Video from lesson 1:

 

  • European imperialism in Africa: Has a transnational and perhaps non-essentialist narrative perspective on the story of European imperialism in Africa, even though colonial history consisted of multiple, different European countries, conquering multiple different African countries.

 

 

Comprehension questions

There’s a national view since the questions are about a specific area.

E.g.:

1. How long did the colonial period in Southern Africa last?
2. Which countries in Southern Africa were British colonies?
3. Why did the British quarrel with the Dutch colony in Southern Africa?
5. What was the result of the Boer wars?

 

3) Identity and process of othering

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From lesson 2: Apartheid in process: An example of the “othering” that took place in the European narrative of black people.

Ellen Richardson: (description with representations without intersectionality – the subtextuality seems to be that she doesn’t agree with the acts)

Under Apartheid, people in South Africa were classified as belonging to a particular racial group: White, Black, Asian (or Indian) or Coloured. According to the Group Areas Act of 1950, the various racial groups had to be physically separated from each other. This meant that the country was divided into areas that were especially reserved for particular racial groups. Identity documents for Black and Coloured (othering and large-culture essentialism) people stopped them from moving into “White” areas. Sometimes members of the same family were classified in different racial groups and were forced to live apart.

It was difficult for non-White people to work in “White” areas. They had to have special permits and could not usually bring their families with them.

 

4) Representations (intersectionality/subtextuality)

 

Picture from ‘Apartheid – the background’

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This picture shows a representation of the South African people, both black and white fighting against the Apartheid.     

5) Intercultural narratives and discourses – language use in texts and media.

Heart of darkness (Book), Joseph Conrad (also identity and othering), ex. It tells a story from a time when native peoples of the African continent was considered savages.

Now when I was a little chap I had a passion for maps. I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, `When I grow up I will go there’.

Common Objectives for English after 7th grade
The teaching sequence is working towards the following Common Objectives within the “culture and society” field marked in bold:

Kultur og samfund Eleven kan indgå i enkle kulturmøder ved brug af forskellige medier Interkulturel kontakt Engelsk som adgang til verden Tekst og medier
1. Eleven kan give eksempler på forskelle og ligheder mellem kultur- og samfundsforhold i eget land og i engelsksprogede områder Eleven har viden om enkle kultur- og samfundsforhold i engelsksprogede områder Eleven kan deltage i udveksling af enkel information og produkter med elever i udlandet Eleven har viden om metoder til udveksling af information Eleven kan genkende typer af fagtekster på engelsk Eleven har viden om sproglige træk ved fagtekster
2. Eleven kan fortælle om kulturelle forskelle og ligheder i enkle kulturmøder Eleven har viden om udvalgte kultur- og samfundsgrupper Eleven kan med forberedelse og støtte bruge engelsk til internationale henvendelser Eleven har viden om engelsk som lingua franca Eleven kan sammenligne typer af fiktive tekster på engelsk Eleven har viden om enkle genretræk ved fiktionstekster
3. Eleven kan indgå i enkle forberedte kulturmøder Eleven har viden om sproglige regler, normer og værdier hos udvalgte grupper Eleven kan tage initiativ til kommunikation med personer i udlandet Eleven har viden om forskellige medier som adgang til international kontakt Eleven kan anvende varierede teksttyper i forskellige medier på engelsk Eleven har viden om sammenhæng mellem genre, indhold og formål