Creating A New Other

Declan Da Barp

The question of modernity is central to the European neo-liberal description of itself. And while this description of modernity rests on the claims of secularization, rationality, and the embrace of enlightenment ideals Europe also characterizes itself against that of Islam. This is no truer than in urban settings, the heart of the neo-liberal world. To use El-Tayeb’s terminology, cities are comprised of consumers, and it is the transformation of the citizen to the consumer that is the true mark of modernity within European society (82). Establishing this dichotomy through the ostracization of an underclass of labour migrants, largely from Islamic Global south countries, cannot achieve this status of the consumer. Their retention of piety is understood and presented as a lack of loyalty to the west and a failure to assimilate into Western culture; often resulting in the characterization as a fifth column (Göle, 672). This only serves to reinforce previous historical narratives.  

One that looms particularly large is the Ottomans and the 1683 siege of Vienna. Presented as a moment of pan-European victory over an invading Other. These powerful historical narratives continue on today when aiming to define who is and who is not a European but also where the geographical boundaries lie. The inclusion of Turkey in the EU is described by Göle as a “forced marriage” (676). Moreover, the liberalization of women’s rights in Western society is routinely contrasted with those in the Islamic world. The hijab, niqab, and burka have all been weaponized by Europeans to characterize Muslims and oppressive to women and thus living in a pre-modern state and thus the incongruity between Europe and the Muslim world (El-Tayeb, 83). In creating these narratives, Europe is not only defining itself but defining what it is not.

One Reply to “Creating A New Other”

  1. Hey Declan,

    Great response. I will start with the fact that the first two sentences you wrote are brilliant.

    As to the historical narratives you reference, I’m surprised you didn’t reference the European/Turk conflicts from 1000-1550’s, as they used plenty of fearmongering and of civilized versus uncivilized, all directed (at least in theory by the Papacy).

    The interesting thing is if you look at the history with European and Middle-Eastern conflicts throughout the past 1000 years, while they’re have been times where both sides can work together and their societies get along, it has always been unstable, and an uneven relationship with either side suborning the other when either has been in the dominant position.

    Globalization sounds great, but the application of it has left much to be desired. All countries may profess friendship and alliances but in reality they’re all seeking to gain dominance over each other in any form they can and the majority of countries would likely step on the weaker one’s in order to ascend the global hierarchy (For example, China).

    Thoughts?

    Wesley M.

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