Othering and its contradictions

By Frank

One of the themes that struck me from the readings was how late 20th century Europeans “othered:” who did they consider to be included t of their “nation” or “people” and who they did not. What I found interesting was that the lines were often drawn differently depending on the context, and how this was done not only by leaders of radical right parties, but also by average citizens.

Cento Bull examines the more high-level perspective of far-right Italian Second Republic parties radically redefined inclusion and exclusion in their efforts to reconstruct the past. One example is discussed Lega Nord. On the one hand, they othered Southern Italians based on a dissonance between work ethic and perceived criminality vis-à-vis Northern Italians. On the other, they saw migrants (in particular people from Arab-speaking countries) as an excluded group from all Italians, Southerners included (p.222-3).

While Italian politicians were doing mental gymnastics to develop their imagined past, Germans in the recently reunified Germany were also engaging in othering from a more bottom-up persepective. Molnar’s piece highlights that post-War racism in Europe had shifted from Nazi-era “biological” differences to ideas of European cultures being incompatible with those of the global south. While this was a discourse pushed by far-right and neofascist groups, Molnar’s examination of letters from German citizens to President Wiezäcker illuminate that these ideas held sway over “average” German citizens, evidenced also by the 1992 anti-asylum compromise (p.498-501).

From these readings we can see how othering ultimately leads to the marginalization of, persecution of, and violence towards groups in European society that were not considered to be included in the dominant national or ethnic group.

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