What is otherness?

We explain what otherness is and how it relates to the concept of diversity. Does the concept of otherness imply discrimination?

  1. What is otherness?

Otherness is not perceiving the other as equal , but as someone different, who is not part of our community . It implies the differentiation that the other is not equal to us, but does not relate to something negative.

Otherness does not imply that the other must be discriminated against , but rather is the ability to respect, recognize and be able to live harmoniously with this diversity . This gives the dimension that each person is unique and unrepeatable in the universe .

This concept can be seen in sociology , anthropology and philosophy , as well as in other sciences . To distinguish the other as different from oneself, that is, as someone outside our field. This does not mean that the other must be discriminated against or neglected, but quite the contrary, it is a concept that accepts diversity and entails coexistence between the parties.

Otherness is the power to coexist among all and encourage the growth of each individual. It arises through psychological and social constructions . It is the concept of the existence in the world of something that is not one’s own, that is not part of everyone’s world.

However, you can see, at times, an intimate union of this concept with discrimination such as xenophobia , homophobia , racism and even misogyny, just to name a few. But otherness does not point towards these aspects, because it is not usually related to negative aspects, only with the exceptions mentioned above.

Anthropologically, the term otherness implies  appreciating the other as an entity alien to us , to what surrounds and identifies us. This difference is manifested from the point of view of each individual, what each considers their own against the other.

The existence of a variety of cultures and customs different from ours allows us to acquire a more global vision of the existence of the other on the same planet as ours and, also, gives us the possibility of enriching our perspective and tolerance towards the different. For this reason we affirm that otherness is not related to negative approaches, but quite the opposite.

Socially, otherness is formed through otherness and the opposite: The other is what we do not want to become, nor did we ever want to. Therefore, this vision of the other is relative based on the perspective of each person.

When it comes to seeing other men (the OTHER), the problem of otherness arises, since this vision can refer to seeing the other as someone superior or inferior. A very easy example to follow is the time of the arrival of the white man to America. Otherness led the conquerors to identify the natives as the OTHER, who were not part of their world and, also, as an inferior OTHER. They considered them barbarians, without education and culture , closer to wild animals than to themselves.

  1. Other History

The differentiation of men varied throughout history. At first, Aristotle argued that men were not born equal : Some were born to submit to slavery , while others were born to command. On the other hand, Thomas Hobbes argued that all men were born equal.

In the natural environment and without psychologies or sociologies to submit it, all men were equal. However, the differences in human physiognomy were notorious , since some men are larger and stronger than others. There are also intellectual differences, so we find that some people are smarter than others. This is a daily reality that cannot be discussed. But it is necessary to emphasize that the use of reason, as Descartes put it, is the area where we can observe the greatest equality between men.

Alterity and otherness are words that basically represent the same thing : the concept of seeing the other as different from one, the OTHER as what I am not. It can be observed in human relationships such as culture, race, sexual orientation. However, this differentiation can never be achieved at 100%, since we are all part of the same universe, we are all human beings.

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