‘Inclusion by virtue of Othering’

‘Inclusion by virtue of othering’ is a phrase and theory originated by Ang in an article entitled The Curse of the Smile: Ambivalence and the ‘Asian’ Woman in Australian Multiculturalism (Ang, 1996). Ang proposes that, “…processes of othering have been transformed in the multicultural era: racially and ethnically marked people are no longer othered today through simple mechanisms of rejection and exclusion, but through an ambivalent and apparently contradictory process of inclusion by virtue of othering” (Ang 1996, p. 37). In other words, whereas prior forms of social exclusion involved outright rejection or physical separation (i.e. overt racism and segregation respectively), present methods of othering occur via a contradictory process: using otherness as a means of incorporating previously excluded individuals into a society which, rather than achieving equality, according to Ang, transforms these individuals from outcasts to ‘pet people’ (Ang 1996, p. 37).

Today, the act of incorporating non-dominant social groups into the multicultural nation is often meant to demonstrate how progressive a nation has become. However, according to Ang, multicultural nations have not dissolved issues of otherness but have, instead, maintained a policy of tolerance (Ang 1996, p. 141). Madsen refers to the practice of tolerance as a form of “hospitality” (Madsen 2006, p. 117). Madsen argues that the practice of tolerance is problematic, “majority groups that hold the power ‘to tolerate’ effectively objectify as Other those minority groups that are structurally placed within the culture as those who are ‘tolerated'” (Madsen 2006, p. 118).

Race and Nationality: Double-Consciousness
As Singh suggests, there is evidence of an “interdependence between race and nation, racism and nationalism, as ways of imagining kinship, community, economic activity and political society” (Singh 2004, p. 6). Taking this into consideration, a sort of tension can occur for individuals whose race and nationality is not viewed as one and the same. Such individuals exist within the nation as two selves, suggests Du Bois who spoke of this phenomenon among African Americans. According to Du Bois, there is a “twoness” within African Americans as they are both “American and a Negro…two unreconciled…warring ideals in one…body” (Du Bois 2005, p. 7). This “twoness” is identified by Du Bois as “double-consciousness” or “[the] sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others” (Du Bois 2005, p. 7). In order to understand this project (A Dream Deferred) it is necessary to understand that such individuals are not struggling with identity but instead struggle to resolve conflicting identities. Rather than being seen as Americans they are African Americans. However, the problem is not necessarily the term African American but, rather, the term can be used to explain double-consciousness.

African Americans belong to two (often opposing) nations (“American and a Negro…”) and, therefore, must continuously negotiate between these identities. However, such identities usually remain distinct and separate for several reasons: 1) African Americans and other racial/ethnic groups around the world may be continuously viewed as foreigners despite generational ties to a country, 2) as foreigners they may be excluded from the political nation altogether or possess less of a political presence than the dominant social group, 3) the practice of tolerance in multicultural nations perpetuates the otherness of these individuals as their otherness is necessary to demonstrate the nations ever-progressive movement towards equality, 4) in response to their otherness individuals may choose to differentiate between their nationality and race, sometimes viewing the distinction as a means of maintaining ties to their ancestral nation/history.

Race and Gender: Double Marginalization
In the context of this research the phrase ‘inclusion by virtue of othering’ is used to examine the Othering of racial and ethnic groups within multicultural nations. Titled A Dream Deferred, this project also examines how women experience ‘inclusion by virtue of othering’ within multiculural societies. In order to understand this aspect of the project, readers should understand that the othering of women in multicultural societies is dependent on more than just the political nation and patriarchal practices. This project exmines feminism from the postcolonial perspective, this perspective problematizes previous forms of feminism which assumed that all women’s experiences are the same. Postcolonial feminism argues that because of issues of race/ethnicity, religion, and even differences among the female gender, no two women are created equal. Furthermore, postcolonial feminism is a balancing act; on the one hand the postcolonial woman struggles with sexism within her own society and on the other she struggles against eurocentric stereotypes that label certain groups of women as victims (for example, Muslim women are often perceived as oppressed and not possibly content with their lifestyle). For this reason, the concept of nations within nations is a vital one to keep in mind when trying to understand the term double marginalization. These nations within nations, for simplicity, have been narrowed to three:

1) the political nation (government/public/shared culture)
2) the familial nation (bloodline (or race)/private/personal culture)
3) the gendered nation (which involves issues between the male and female genders as well issues among women, the latter of which is discussed in Redefining Gender Equality).

Both Shirley Geok-lin Lim and Lorraine Hansberry critique the tendency to include women in national discourse as others. In Joss and Gold Lim accomplishes this by placing Li An directly within the discussion of a group of male guests and having the men react in a particular way to Li An’s opinions regarding the future of Malaysia. After the offended men leave Li An’s husband, Henry, whom she considers to be open-minded, informs her that her intelligence should be utilized “for agreement”. This scene supports the argument that women are also included ‘by virtue of othering’ because Li An is informed that she is allowed to participate by agreeing, in this way Li An discovers, literally and figuratively, that she is incorporated in national discourse but as what I call an Other-other (a woman). Lim then reveals that the gender discrimination within the larger nation is linked to gender hierarchy within the familial nation or one’s culture, as Henry informs Li An that the reason she must use her intelligence for agreement is because she is Chinese and “that is the Chinese way.”

Similarly, in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Beneatha, a young college student, disagrees with the role of women in society but also discovers that her intelligence cannot change the fact of her expected role as a woman. For example, one of her beaus, George, informs Beneatha, “I know [you love to talk] and I don’t mind it sometimes…You’re a nice-looking girl…all over. That’s all you need, honey…Guys… [are] going to go for what they see. Be glad for that…As for myself, I want a nice – (Groping) – simple (Thoughtfully) – sophisticated girl…not a poet – O.K.?” Here Beneatha is informed, like Li An, that men will accept her appearance and her “sophistication” but her opinion must reflect her position as a female, soft and feminine (inviting) rather than critical and oppositional. Simultaneously, Beneatha also finds it hard to relate to her mother and her sister-in-law Ruth who criticize Beneatha for her lack of participation in household chores. Additionally, both Li An and Beneatha live in societies that treat them as second-class citizens because of their ethnicity. And, ultimately, both women discover that there are specific conditions they must meet in order to be accepted in the political nation, the private nation, and the gendered nation. Li An and Beneatha have dual roles; not only must these women know their place as women but they must also know their place as women belonging to a specific ethnic group. Therefore, Li An and Beneatha experience double marginalization.

Negotiating Identity: Alienation
Both Lim and Hansberry suggest that, alongside gender and race, the postcolonial woman must contend with issues of class expectations. Both women originate from what can be described as lower class families and discover that a privilege such as an education situates them in an in-between space, a space which postcolonial theorist Frantz Fanon refers to as ‘alienation’. That is, an individual has gained access to a particular space in society that his or her social group (race, gender, class) is largely excluded from. However, this privilege does not mean that the individual is accepted by the dominant social group (in Li An and Beneatha’s case this space is education). Moreover, being in such a position affects the way the individual relates to his or her own social group(s). Therefore, as Fanon recommends, and Lim and Hansberry explore, these individuals must learn to negotiate their identities; Fanon refers to this negotiating process as ‘disalienation’.

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