There are few things that are as important as language. This is a truth that every human being has realized, at some point or other. Language can both be the barrier and the key, depending on how it is wielded and the intent behind its wielding. What we tend to focus on, is the barrier of language, however. We allow the inability to effectively communicate to inhibit us from connecting to those who are foreign to us. Now language does pose quite a real barrier, but this is where the importance of learning language or cultures different from our own, comes into play. Through our own effort to find commonality between ourselves and others, through either learning other languages or learning about other cultures, our positionality in the society of the world’s stage is more aimed toward deeper connection and understanding.
This class has brought a few things to the forefront of our minds, in relation to language and culture. Through my own study, I began looking at the country of Haiti which, for one, has more people living there than I expected. In studying Haiti, the focus was more so on how the history of language influences culture as well as the power language has in orienting people within their own societies and cultures; or even within other societies and cultures. To take that one step further, it seemed a beneficial thought experiment to focus on the idea of “othering” and how that also orient’s individuals within societies.
There are two sides of this thought exercise that I aimed to address, in relation to “othering”:
are we as individuals, or even as a society, responsible for “othering” or do people “other” themselves; does feeling “othered” preclude people from fully, or rather from successfully, experiencing the society they are in? My conclusion is that the phenomenon of “othering” both comes from the naiveté that individuals have when they approach those who are foreign to them—which can lead to stereotypes that create preconceptions about others—as well as the perception, of those who are foreign to a place, that the society sees them as less-than. My belief is that the best remedy for both of these phenomena, is more active participation by all parties involved, in both a willingness to learn to understand, on the one hand, and a willingness to have patience, on the other. Active participation can be in learning a language that is foreign to one’s own, or in merely changing one’s mindsets toward other people and cultures. This is how language can be a key and how it can open the door, through barriers, into understanding and connection.

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Part 3


A. I will be researching cases of “othering”. I have a book that contains one or two of these cases that I am considering. For example: one of the cases is about a man who was born in Japan, and became a citizen of the U.S. In his letter he discussed his feelings of being an outcast. After becoming an American citizen, his family in Japan looked at him as an American, rather than Japanese. In the states, being Japanese, he felt as if he could never truly be part of American culture, even though he is a citizen and has lived here for 30+ years. My first step will focus on this.

B. My second focus, would be on maybe looking at the psychology behind felling like an “other” even though you are part of society. Perhaps I will also look at how we as individuals cause people to feel this feeling of being on the edges of society.

C. Lastly, putting everything I have compiled together, into a cohesive representation of my topic.


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Part 2

So far, we have focused on the power language has in orienting people within their societies or even within other societies. To take that one step further, it would be interesting to focus on the idea of “othering” and how that also orient’s individuals.

There are two aspects of being an “other” that comes to mind, offhand, and that is: people or society that places people as “other” whether intentionally or as a byproduct of naiveté; an individual’s perception as being an “other” when they may not be seen as such, by society. There is a lot that can come from taking one’s mind to these topics, especially in relation to stereotypes and how they influence interactions among people within a multicultural (or even mono-cultural) framework.

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