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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 67-68 | volume XII | July-October, 2009



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 67-68July-October, 2009

Degrees of Otherness: Fetishisation of the ‘West’

p. 1
Natalija Jovanović

The comfort of the marginal position


…they took passports and left to become somebody else, to become what they weren’t and what they couldn’t be in their language: from solitaries solidaries, from idiorrhythmics cenobites[1]
    Milorad Pavić
    …what I call love is openness to the other [2]
    Julija Kristeva

We live in an era of multi-corporational neocolonialism and the cultural hegemony of Eurocentrism, and we might as well say Amerocentrism. We constantly, and rightfully, complain that we are silenced. We even derive pleasure from competing in being more marginalised than the others. Thus, it is quite obvious why Henry Louis Gates Jr. remarks in Derridian style that there is ‘nothing outside of (the discourse of) colonialism’, to which Slemon adds ‘all discourse must be nothing other than colonial discourse itself’. (Slemon 1995, 51)
     Still, are we not discriminating more than the privileged? Do we expect to be disadvantaged at all costs, and, perhaps, in a certain sense, hope we will be, so as to be able to sleep at night with a clear conscience? Is it not bewildering to be equal, identical, same, blended, and unnoticeable? What do we do when nobody ever considers us strangers? What if we stop considering ourselves strangers within?
     This nightmare scenario points to the fact that the ‘West’ exists as much due to the need of the ‘East’ to distinguish itself from it, as due to its neoimperialistic and violent self-definition. The position of an outsider is as comfortable as the elite position, in a certain sense even more powerful (in its subversiveness).
     While we keep asking whether the privileged nations can read marginalised literature and culture without prejudice (when they read it at all), we might as well ask conversely, whether the underprivileged subjects can read dominant literature and culture without prejudice (as often as they read it).

Encounter, recognition, and naming of otherness

Otherness is born in an encounter (with another person or with ourselves). It begins by noticing the difference, the other which inspires binarity. This other, says Kristeva, ‘bears the mark of a crossed threshold’, is experienced ‘in addition’ to ourselves and cripples the wellbeing of the individual. (2005, 238) Every addition tells us we are not enough; we are not complete and immaculate.
     ‘The Museum’ is a short story about the encounter of two others. It is an excellent commentary on how postcolonial nations see the ‘West’ and on how they believe it sees them. This short


1. Milorad Pavić 1990 Предео сликан чајем (Landscape Painted with Tea) Земун, Драганиќ. (124) All translations from Serbian and Macedonian are mine.
2. Кристева (2005, 308). This work is a translation of the original written in Macedonian. Where an English translation was unavailable to me I was obliged to translate into English from Macedonian sources.

"Blesok" editions 01-93 are also available at CEEOL web site.

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