alterity / other

"The negative construction of ....others is finally what founds and sustains European identity itself." (Hardt and Negri) For Hegel, the effort to overcome the Other is simultaneously an effort to overcome self- consciousness' own otherness to itself. Hegelian negativity simultaneously restored and systematized, unleashed and bound the power of the Other, against and within the consciousness of the Same. In the work of self-consciousness, which is desire in general, the subject finds ways to integrate what at first seems to lie outside itself. But during the ongoing course of this process, the subject changes, to the point that the subject can be considered only a term for the process that it accomplishes. 

In the section on Lordship and Bondage (also called master and slave?) Hegel describes the most challenging encounter of the subject, when "self-consciousness is faced by another self-consciousness." (ś 179) The first experience of the Other's similarity is that of self-loss. It is a narcissistic project that fails through an inability to recognize the Other's freedom. Self-consiousness can only supersede this otherness to itself when it locates itself in reciprocal recognition, when it recognizes the Other as also in the process of retreiving itself from its own estrangement in desire. 

Two significant "others" for critiques of Eurocentrism are non-Europeans and women. Colonialism functions first of all through the production of alterity. Edward Said's seminal book Orientalism traces the "orientalizing" of the Orient. For Said Orientalism is a discourse that produces its own object in the unfolding of the discourse itself.

As Simone de Beauvoir pointed out, Masculinity requires the conception of woman as "other." "Man feminizes the ideal he sets up before him as the essential Other; that is why almost all allegories, in language as well as in pictorial representation, are women." But, as Luce Iragaray and others have pointed out, these forms of construction do not admit the possibility of an autonomous experience different from that of men, but treats woman only as "the inversed alter ego of the 'masculine' subject or its complement, or its supplement." 

Central to the notion of masculinity is its rejection of everything that is defined by a culture as feminine and its legitimated control of whatever counts as the feminine. (Harding, p.55) What it means to be a man is, in part, to share in masculine control of women. 

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri describe Colonialism as "a negative dialectic of recognition. (Empire, p. 128) Using Deleuzian vocabulary, they call colonialism "an abstract machine that produces identities and alterities." Colonial identities are "real illusions." Even when they are recognized as artificial constructions, they continue to function as if they were essential. 

The Lacanian account of the subject points to a constitutive splitting between "self" and "other." Lacan's theory of the mirror stage follows both Ovid and Freud in stressing the basically narcissistic relation of the subject to his counterpart, the specular ego. In this way Lacan also sets up the erotic attraction or aggressive tension as a relation to a counterpart (another who is me) who can only exist because the ego is originally another. (See " Imaginary" in Laplanche and Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis>)