A. Gnott – Week 7 – Final Reflections

In Week 2, systems of difference were discussed in detail. Within the material for that week, several different themes arose, including the creation of the “other.” It was said that the creation of the other started during colonial expansion when explorers went to other parts of the world and were startled by the differences between them (Lecture 2.1). This can be seen in today’s world and is expanded upon in Week 6 and Week 5. Also in Week 2’s systems of difference, race is discussed and how it is not at all biological, but only cultural. This is comparable to the gender discussions in Week 4.

Week 6 includes a video titled “Life and Debt” about Jamaica and their economic and political struggles. After Jamaica got independence, they experienced financial problems which led them to taking out loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This basically put Jamaica in a bind which kept them in debt and the country is now controlled by several foreign powers. I believe that part of the reason this occurred is because the larger, more successful countries viewed Jamaica as inferior or as the “other.” This led the more powerful countries to believe Jamaica needs their “superior” knowledge and help which turned into the economical control we see today by foreign countries.

In Week 5, there is a reading titled “Poverty at Work: Office Employment and the Crack Alternative.” In this article, the author discusses how several people in Spanish Harlem go down a destructive path of dealing drugs rather than getting service jobs. While this is primarily due to the larger amount of money offered by the illegal work, I believe it could also be caused by the view of Spanish Harlem people as the “other.” Since employers view the uneducated people of Spanish Harlem as inferior and the other, it leads to them being mistreated and disrespected in the workplace (Bourgois 122). These people obviously do not want to work like this and end up doing illegal work for more money.

Week 4 includes a reading titled “Performing Gender Identity.” In this reading, the author talks about certain gender roles and how they are culturally defined in the U.S. This corresponds to Week 2’s discussion of race because they are also culturally defined. Overall, both weeks show how culture influences how groups of people think. Factors such as race and gender are not biological fact; they are simply ways of categorizing people determined by cultural ideas.

3 thoughts on “A. Gnott – Week 7 – Final Reflections

  1. I think it is interesting that you say that the creation of the other arose from colonial practices. It seems to me that it is basic human nature to view outsiders as different, we have not been biologically built to trust everyone and see everyone as our equal. I can agree that colonialism had a huge part in this but that seems to be more because we as a population don’t have much information and data from before colonization occurred by the Europeans. Colonization has created some of the starkest differences that have led to genocide that the world has ever seen. The slaughter in Rwanda is a prime example of Europeans treating one native group better than others and it creating a rift between natives which led to terrible consequences. I think the documentary Life in Debt does a great job of explaining what post-colonial life is like in these countries that used to be under control. It seems that the foreign nationals and missionaries have simply been replaced by foreign capitalists which look upon these countries with a cold, money making agenda. The one thing I wanted to see more of in Life in Debt is the response by the current federal Jamaican government and a look into what they can be doing differently.

  2. The creation of the “other” is both convenient and insidious, and that is a deadly combination. I liked how you related this construction of the other to the real-life impact it can have on who the “other” group is, which usually stands at a disadvantage when it comes to power. The group who gets to define the other necessarily is the more powerful group. Accordingly, to the comment above^, I’d say that the Jamaican government is strapped in terms of what it can realistically do to counter the influence of power and money on its government and citizenry. The fact is, we cannot even control that influence in our own political system in the United States- candidates that outspend their candidates in congressional elections win 95 percent of the time! And I don’t even need to start on the nature of presidential elections. But not only do these power dynamics control politics but also the creation of the other limits opportunities for the social mobility of uneducated or poor people by making it easy for them to engage in illegal activity than work for a “fair, decent living” as evidenced by “Poverty at Work: Office Employment and the Crack Alternative.” Again, the group that gets to define the other vilifies people in the workplace who wish to escape their circumstances and drive them away into a world where they’ll likely to be incarcerated and kept on the lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder. Finally, as you noted, this dynamic of creating and oppressing the other doesn’t just extend to nationality, money, power, or level of education but also to gender identity and race. What is normalized in any society tends to reign over the constructed other- unless the people take deliberate efforts to reverse it.

  3. I really like your post and I think it is really interesting and I agree with you. By reading your post, the most interesting thing I found was that you wrote about creating the “other”. In my opinion, I think creating the “other” does not only happen in the past, but also happen in nowadays. People like creating the “other” to make a difference. For example, people will categorize one group of people in one label and categorize other groups of people in other label. It is silly to use label to define people but many people like doing this. Many people like creating the “other”. Creating the “other” let some people feel good because they can benefit from it and think their selves as superior. Just like you give the Jamaica example. Other countries that control Jamaica created the Jamaica as the “other” so they can benefit by doing this.

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