History of SELF-TAUGHT

Colin Rhodes, “Other Positions,” (2000)

Populations inevitably look first to themselves for cultural sustenance, but a shared sense of self-identity can be challenged by the recognition of difference in others even within small cultural units. Recognition of difference — at even the most primitive level between the ‘self’ and the ‘object’ — is controlled by our projection of ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’ onto the Other. The American writer Sander L. Gilman has argued that our common tendency to create stereotypes arises out of a basic human need to cope with ‘anxieties engendered by our inability to control the world’. Encounters with Otherness result in the construction of stereotypes that operate as a means of perpetuating a sense of self-identity. However, the illusory line we draw between self and the Other is a shifting one, adjusted according to changes in our perceptions. As Gilman says, ‘paradigm shifts in our mental representations of the world can and do occur. We can move from fearing to glorifying the Other. We can move from loving to hating. The most negative stereotypes always have an overtly positive counterweight.’ At the heart of this, though, lies the recognition of difference and the projection of value judgments into its identification. Historical encounters of imperialist cultures with Otherness and their aftermath offer clear examples not only of the dynamic nature of stereotypes, but also of their essentially mythic nature.

Excerpt source:

Colin Rhodes, “Other Positions,” (London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2000), 198.

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