Key terms (HUM455)

Here are some of the key terms we discussed today in class.

geographical imaginary (see this pdf entry– geographicalimaginary –from the Encyclopedia of Human Geography)



To this short list we could add an idea we discussed last week: the notion of “the Other.” See what you think about the following.

The colonized, as Albert Memmi notes, is wedded to the colonizer in that each in some sense is constitutive of the other. Moreover, she internalizes her abjection: “Willfully created and spread by the colonizer, this mythical and degrading portrait ends up being accepted and lived with to a certain extent by the colonized.” The colonizer produces the colonized by erasing him; the colonizer renders the colonized an object lacking any distinguishing features, with no individual worth or existence– the native is simply an amalgamation of negative traits. “They all look alike,” says the colonizer. “They’re lazy and impecunious. If you don’t watch them they’ll steal you blind.” Exploding this non-identity, this stereotyped subjectivity, is accomplished with destruction of the one who imposes it.

Robert Young gives us further insight into this phenomenon: “imperialism initiated a process of ‘internalization’ in which those subjected to it experienced economic, political, and social inferiority not merely in ‘external’ terms but in a manner that affected their sense of their own identity…. material inferiority creates a sense of racial and cultural inferiority…. Colonization, he argues, also took place through language: under French domination the Creole language is rendered ‘inferior’ to French, and the colonized subject is compelled to speak the tongue of his/her imperial rules, thereby experiencing their subjugation in terms of their own linguistic abilities and identity.” But this process not only damages the colonized– it structures the colonizer himself. The colonized, as the colonizer’s Other, is intimately linked to his/her oppressor.

Other: “[A] form of cultural projection of concepts which constructs the identities of cultural subjects through a relationship of power in which the Other is the subjugated element. In claiming knowledge about the [colonized] this projection constructs them as its own (European) Other. Through describing purportedly [‘native’]  characteristics (irrational, uncivilized, etc.) colonialism provides a definition not of the real [‘native’] identity but of the European identity in terms of the oppositions which structured its putatively innocent account. Hence, irrational Other presupposes rational self. The construction of the Other in colonial discourse, then, is a matter of asserting self-identity, and the issue of the European account of the Other is thereby rendered a question of power.

Abdul JanMohammed characterizes the othering of the native this way: “If every desire is at base a desire to impose oneself on another and be recognized by the Other, then the colonialist situation provides an ideal context for the fulfillment of that fundamental drive. The colonizer’s military superiority enables him to impose his will, to otherize the native and thus gain recognition or acknowledgement. This is a narcissistic self-recognition because the colonizer doesn’t recognize or acknowledge the natives subjectivity independent of his relatinship to the colonizer. The native is a recipient of the negative elements of the self that the European projects onto him.”