Tuesday, April 5, 2011

othering otherers, or the tragedy of identity

The title of this post is a note to myself for an essay I may never write about the ways people who practice identity politics end up "othering" the people they accuse of othering. In the meantime, have some links and hasty thoughts:

I highly recommend The Interstitial Arts Foundation: Projects: Interfictions Zero: Oscar Wao, Murdering Machismo, but for all that I like it, there's something a bit smug in its conclusion that it's best to be a liberal academic American.*

I have a lot of doubts about Strange Horizons Columns: Race, Again, Still, by Nisi Shawl. She's a fine person working on a novel that I really want to read, but when she asks if she's too sensitive to the presence of racism, the answer, based on her examples, is yes. At conventions, people dressed at all unusually are often assumed to be in costume, and are often misidentified. I forget what I was wearing when someone mistakenly asked if I was supposed to be Indiana Jones. Should I charge that person with racism because I was not asked if I was supposed to be Shaft? Young people are ignorant, and they're especially ignorant about old pop culture. As Geetika Tandon Lizardi said recently, "Ignorance of a foreign culture isn't racist; it's just ignorance."

The Evolution of Prejudice: Scientific American is worth a look, though I think the researchers are straining to conclude something obvious: critters besides humans develop ways to tell "us" from "not us." The question I'd like someone to explore is why humans develop so very many ways to define "not us", why, for example, dark skin was irrelevant to the Romans, but pertinent to Arab slavers a thousand years later.

How Slavery Really Ended in America - NYTimes.com is well worth reading if you don't know about Beast Butler and the problem of contrabands.

* ETA: I like a lot about liberal academics. But I may've gotten overly sensitive to the smugness of the folks in the ivory towers.