Their sudden vulnerability and precariousness reminds members of the precariat , the rapidly growing class of the disillusioned, of their own condition of uncertainty, brittleness and fragility in the world where political institutions are no guarantee against social and emotional precariousness. In the context of the anti-refugee discourse, this curious turn of phrase may be applied to express the combination of the emotional impact of liquid fear, fuelled by irrational and contradictory mappings of European selfhood and Oriental otherness, with the alleged solidity of socio-political realities which are about to be radically transformed once the other has penetrated Europe.
Interestingly, the narrative which blends the liquid and the solid, affects and facts seems to be most common in countries, where the number of Muslims amounts to a fraction of the population. By doing so, we will be able to address alterity and the fear it provokes in terms of processes of turning towards the other that take place not only in the realm of discourse and imagined communities, as it happens for instance in the countries of East-Central Europe, but also in social spaces which bodies occupy and where they interact together.
In her discussion of the ethics of unchosen cohabitation, following Hannah Arendt, Judith Butler points to precarity , the root word for precariat , which she sees in terms of a relationship between vulnerability and a politics of the body, since 'precarity is indissociable from that dimension of politics that addresses the organization and protection of bodily needs.
Precarity exposes our sociality, the fragile and necessary dimensions of our interdependency' Butler, , p Butler perceives precarity as central to the concept of cohabitation in which bodily beings depend upon one another as much as they depend on social and political institutions Arias, Skin refers here to the normative whiteness of bodies that through likeness and proximity, through the process of being orientated around whiteness, 'make spaces white'.
This whiteness is invisible to those that inhabit it and, as mentioned earlier in this paper, it will remain so unless contrasted with their opposite. In the case of the Muslim other, it is not so much the skin colour as clothing and facial features that make him or her 'feel exposed, visible, and different when they take up this space' Ahmed, , p If this unsolicited visibility remains moderate in the times of peace, it increases dramatically, whenever terrorism strikes.
Last summer a woman was fined by a group of police officers in Nice, France for wearing a pair of leggings, a tunic and a headscarf on a public beach. It is noteworthy that the event, or a burkini scandal, as tabloid press would likely call it, took place in the aftermath of the Bastille Day terrorist attack in which the driver of a cargo truck deliberately drove into crowds of people. In the wake of the tragedy, several French towns introduced a ban on burkini, Nice being one of them. The aforementioned event had been poignantly captured in a photograph which made headlines around the world.
It shows the woman being approached by four police officers. Calm and unsuspecting, she is resting on the beach dressed in a black-and-blue ensemble amidst a number of swimwear-clad men and women. At first sight, she seems to be the only fully-dressed person on this beach, but a closer look reveals a fully-clad teenage boy sitting to her right. He too is clearly wearing an outfit that might be considered inappropriate for the beach, yet his clothes, a black t-shirt and a white cap seem to be 'Western' enough not to raise any suspicion or interfere with 'good morals and secularism', which were cited as the rationale behind the burkini ban Quinn, There is another photograph in which the woman, police officers towering over her, is shown removing her blue tunic to reveal a black vest underneath.
It is hard not to feel a sense of unease at the violent clash between the tranquil seaside and the imposing police officers suddenly plunged into the holiday landscape. One almost senses the humiliation and discomfort of the woman who was reported to have said that she 'had no intention of swimming', and who was forced to remove her tunic to make herself more 'secular-looking'. The Muslim woman is excluded from the realm of belonging because outwardly she disrupts the customary likeness of the Western beach, where a bikini and swim trunks are the markers of unity and sameness.
Western bodies thus come together in a shared orientation which, however, renders the other precarious and vulnerable. The result is an orientation that sanctions exclusion. As the above examples of discursive and bodily orientations demonstrate, fear is at the heart of the way we face the other within the society and regulate their presence or absence among us. As we turn towards the other, we also orientate or cohere around the self, the fear seeping into the spaces we live in and forming a sticky interface between us.
Let us once again reach to recent literature to illustrate this point. Jamilla does not suffer from an overt discrimination or race-based hatred. However, stuck between an orthodox, self-contained family and a disinterested surrounding, she feels misunderstood and displaced, which eventually leads her to pursue a sense of belonging in the black-and-white realm of religious and political fundamentalism.
At one point the girl, who dons traditional Muslim garb, is accosted by an elderly woman who berates her for 'letting down [her] sex and not fitting into the culture' Khair, , p III. Khair is a sharp observer though, whose 'gentle humour anticipates and outmanoeuvres the ready prejudices of his characters and readers, indulging and sparing neither' Sinha, This willingness to understand in spite of how hard it may sometimes be is what Bauman had been suggesting shortly before his death. He argued that the only way for the Europeans to appease fears and address the situation they are going through is through dialogue—an undeniably difficult and long-term one, but indispensable nonetheless IWM, Understood as such, 'dialogue is the proper response to the extent of diversification of humanity and the desirable mode of human interdependence and cohabitation ' Bauman and Raud, , p 30, our emphasis.
Necessarily, the shape which such dialogue will assume will depend on the existing orientations within the social spaces of Europe, some of which we have discussed earlier in this paper. Interestingly, before coming to the West people staying at refugee camps undergo orientation trainings that are meant to teach them how to find their way around in the new reality. Here orientation emerges as education, or education is an 'orientation device' Ahmed, , p 54 aimed at steering the newcomer in the right direction, i.
Within the realm of mental maps, Polish psychologist Wojciech Eichelberger recommends starting with an imaginary dialogue with the Muslim other. He recommends forgoing political correctness and blurting out all the preconceptions, fears and prejudices that tend to be associated with the mental rubric of a Muslim person to an imagined stranger sitting in front of us. Somewhat counterintuitively, difference not just between Europeans and Muslim immigrants but also within both peoples respectively emerges here not as an obstacle but rather as a common denominator—as Bauman argued, dialogue promises to elaborate an inclusive mode of living that operates thanks to difference rather than despite it IWM, Indeed, the realization that so many of us are, in some way or another, migrants is no platitude.
Even less so is the awareness that 'unwilled proximity and unchosen cohabitation serve […] as the basis for our obligation […] to invest institutions with the demand to seek to make all lives liveable and equally so' Butler, , p Publisher's note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Fortunately, this is not a pipe dream, as such initiatives are already taking place and their importance cannot be emphasized enough. Ahmed S Queer phenomenology: orientations, objects, others. Duke University Press, London.
Ahmed S The promise of happiness. Duke University Press, Durham and London. Routledge, London and New York. Bauman Z Identity: conversations with Benedetto Vecchi. Polity Press, Cambridge. Bauman Z, Raud R Practices of selfhood. Butler J Precarious life, vulnerability, and the ethics of cohabitation.
What is Otherness? – The Other Sociologist
J Specul Philos 26 2 — Probably, yes. Interview with Michel Houellebecq. The Guardian. Dearden L UN report finds no evidence migration causes terror attacks and warns anti-refugee laws could worsen risk. Houellebecq M Submission. Vintage, London, Kindle file. IWM Vienna Diasporic terrorism. Khair T Just another Jihadi Jane. Periscope, Reading, Kindle file.
Massumi B The future birth of the affective fact: the political ontology of threat. Duke University Press, London, p 52— Wywiad z Wojciechem Eichelbergerem. Quinn B French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban. Said E Orientalism. Shteyngart G Little failure: a memoir. Penguin Books, London. Of course, there remains debate about what can be considered the first science fiction text. However, some see this as anachronistic: Frankenstein was not recognised as a work of science fiction at the time of publication, but as Gothic.
This argument, however, fails to account for the hindsight required in genre designation: it is unfair to expect authors to self-consciously designate themselves as part of a newly emerging genre when genre itself can only really be determined looking back in hindsight at developing trends and themes. The argument that Frankenstein is, in fact, an early science fiction novel, then, holds.
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Very briefly, it is strange that scifi emerged from Gothic, given the opposing views on reality the two genres provide. Where the two genres merge is in their portrayal of the monstrous, their engagement with what Freud called Das Unheimlich , or the Uncanny.
The cognitive dissonance of the familiar become peculiar, of the known becoming recognisable but different, permeates both Gothic and science fiction literature. Where Gothic looks back to an ancestral monster, science fiction looks ahead Botting If sci-fi is, to quote renowned author and critic, Robert A. We define ourselves against the monstrous Other that society and the individual has classified as abnormal or outside proper boundaries.
Explorations of alterity and Othering exist in most humanities discourses — for example in historical or sociological approaches, discourses of alterity are encompassed by discussions of in-and out-groups. In literary studies, alterity is usually discussed through ideas of alienation, the Other, and of abjection. The shape and form of the Other depends on shifting cultural understandings of difference and hierarchy. The abject represents our visceral reaction to a breakdown in meaning the subject, our Self, and the object, the Other, and the dialogue and interplay between I and not I.
Where we use language to construct subject and object, Self and Other, abjection cannot be quantified linguistically.
The most illuminating example Kristeva provides to identify the place of the abject as both my Self and not is in imagery of the corpse and of bodily fluids — both human and part of the body, and no longer human, and expelled from the body Kristeva, Powers When confronted with something that is not quantifiable in language, something that is both I and not I , there is a revulsion or horror, which is rendered as monstrous.
This unconscious self recognises and recoils from its own alterity, projecting that which is unpleasant or fearful onto others Kristeva, Strangers ; Kearney 5. The Other transformed from a scapegoat monster constructed to rid society of its ills and reinvigorate the community, to an external reflection of our own fears and phobias, predicated upon cultural trends. The Other has occupied a place in artistic representation as monster or demon — religious beliefs and cultural fears around the supernatural were deemed entirely plausible, and the Other was not an abstract idea, but could tangibly be placed in the form of the Monster.
The Enlightenment, however, prompted a call to rationality, exiling the monster from the conscious world Kearney Hyde , Voldemort. Scientific discovery and rising intellectualism moved the shadows of the abject from the external supernatural and religious demonic to the internal psyche, creating monsters of our Selves. Works of the fantastic — that is, literature such as fantasy, science fiction, epic, adventure, etc. In the increasingly rationalised post-Enlightenment scientific landscape, fantastic literature became the new home for the monstrous Other, banished from realistic literature.
I want to go back to Frankenstein , briefly, to demonstrate how sci-fi presents a shift in the artistic representation of the Other. When the Creature speaks, he self-consciously constructs himself through literature, and associates himself the monstrous Other with humanity, and Frankenstein the rational human scientists with monstrosity:. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due.
Remember, that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous Shelley If science fiction, as fantastic literature, is a safe place of subversion for the Other to inhabit, it also becomes a place for Othered groups to critique social norms and rules that cast them as villains.
The origins of the genre, as discussed earlier, are debatable, but are considered to lie somewhere in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the so-called Age of Empires. As colonial powers established themselves around the world, they utilised the very theories of the Other so prevalent in modern-day science fiction to create Others of native peoples and cast difference as a threat to the empire, and thus justify eradicating or suppressing difference.
Science fiction conceits, such as space or time travel, conceits that are not scientifically possible in reality yet , are referred to as nova or novum, and function as narrative embodiments of alterity in the text, as clear signifiers to the reader of the difference between the world of the text and our own world Roberts They provide unique opportunities in social justice criticism as literary features that explicitly draw attention to, and celebrate, their Othered nature.
While not necessarily always a radically progressive representation of marginalised out-groups — indeed, sometimes the exact opposite — there has always been present in science fiction a necessity for alterity, and an inherent celebration of difference, that is not seen in other genres. Science fiction, then, has the potential to be a vehicle for social change, although this potential is rarely recognised. Despite recognising the potential of the genre, widely-acclaimed sci-fi authors disregarded their position as instigators of social change, and instead saw it as a theoretical investigation of difference, which had not, and could not, provide real-world applications of the social critique it created.
Robert A. However, I would argue otherwise. Mid-twentieth century shifts in science fiction towards an incorporation of the Other in the norm, then, can be seen as of a broader cultural upheaval. However, modern science fiction has continued this move towards social justice, with many authors of marginalised groups now self-consciously choosing science fiction as a ground for exploration of worlds without oppression.
Imarisha argues that:. Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in speculative fiction. All organising is science fiction. Organisers and activists dedicate their lives to creating and envisioning another world, or many other worlds — so what better venue for organisers to explore their work than science fiction stories? Imarisha 3. While the Other remains the marginalised or oppressed group, monstrosity resides in the majority and the dominant ideologies. Freudian constructions of the Other as an external representation of internal socio-cultural anxieties inevitably place marginalised groups as the Other of the science fiction text.
While science fiction does have conservative texts, factions, and features, as does any genre, the vast majority of works classified as science fiction have been radical for their time. Imagining fictional worlds and beings inevitably require some examination of our own society, and what it means to be human.
By its very construction, science fiction is a breeding ground for pre-imagining change: the world will probably not change due to one book, but in sci-fi, inequality can be rejected, prejudice can be examined, and utopias can be imagined. The revolutionary disposition of a genre that requires a hierarchically dominant human monster marks science fiction as an ideal genre for social justice movements and authors to work within.
Science fiction, the enthusiastic imaginative response to increasing technological and scientific influence on the human condition, has grown up, and has grown a conscience in doing so. Aldiss, Brian.
Weidenfeld and Nicholson, Alkon, Paul K. Twayne, Botting, Fred. Brown, Adrienne Maree. Creed, Barbara. Melbourne University Press, Heinlein, Robert A. Imarisha, Walidah. Kearney, Richard. Strangers, Gods and Monsters: Interpreting Otherness. Routledge, Kornbluth, C.
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