Otherness & Binary opposition
The idea of ‘otherness’ is central to sociological analyses of how majority and minority identities are constructed (The Other Sociologist, 2011).
Binary opposition is a key concept in structuralism, a theory of sociology, anthropology and linguistics that states that all elements of human culture can only be understood in relation to one another and how they function within a larger system or the overall environment. We often encounter binary oppositions in cultural studies when exploring the relationships between different groups of people, for instance: upper-class and lower-class or disabled and non-disabled. On the surface, these seem like mere identifying labels, but what makes them binary opposites is the notion that they cannot coexist (Study.com, 2016).
Binary opposites examples
Good vs Evil
Black vs White
Boys vs Girl
Peace vs War
Civilised vs Savage
Democracy vs Dictatorship
First world vs Third world
Domestic vs foreign/alien
Articulate vs Inarticulate
Young vs Old
Man vs Nature
Protagonist vs Antagonist
Action vs Inaction
Motivator vs Observer
Man vs Woman
The matter of whiteness by Richard Dyer
Richard Dyer in his chapter entitled ‘The matter of Whiteness’ says that ‘this book is about the racial imagery of white people – not the images of other races in white cultural production, but the latter’s imagery of the white people themselves. This is not merely to fill a gap in the analytic literature, but because there is something at stake in looking at, or continuing to ignore, white racial imagery. As long as race is something only applied to non-white peoples, as long as white people are not racially seen and named, they/we function as a human norm. Other people are raced, we are just people (About Film, 2008).
example of racism, “Crash”
The movie “Crash” depicts various races and their experiences concerning racism and their position within our society. Particularly, African American, Hispanic, and Iranian races are portrayed. Even though the film demonstrates various races, it is important to note that this movie targets a white audience, fitting the “race and the media” criteria that most narratives are not written for non-whites and instead, people of color must fit into a white narrative. Even though there are white characters and they do commit acts of racism, their racist demeanors are almost justified due to personal struggles the characters are experiencing. Overall, even though the film exemplifies acts of racism and highlights racial stereotypes, the concept of “whiteness” is portrayed. Because the acts of racism committed by the white characters are justified, the movie suggests that whites are not technically to blame for the issue of racism in an attempt to not offend the predominantly white audience. Therefore, “whiteness” is demonstrated by portraying the white characters, first in a negative light; however, then, the white characters are shown in a more positive light in the final scenes depicting each of the characters.
About Film. (2008). The Matter of Whiteness. [online] Available at: https://aboutfilm.wordpress.com/2008/05/30/the-matter-of-whiteness/ [Accessed 23 Apr. 2016].
Jamesmariajana’s Blog. (2010). The matter of whiteness by Richard Dyer. [online] Available at: https://jamesmariajana.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/the-matter-of-whiteness-by-richard-dyer/ [Accessed 23 Apr. 2016].
Study.com. (2016). Binary Opposition in Literature: Definition & Examples – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com. [online] Available at: http://study.com/academy/lesson/binary-oppositions-in-literature-list-of-examples.html [Accessed 23 Apr. 2016].
Anon, (2016). [image] Available at: http://www.panoramicfinancial.com/our-difference/ [Accessed 23 Apr. 2016].
Anon, (2016). [image] Available at: https://daretostruggle.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/crash-setting-back-racial-progress-in-america/ [Accessed 5 May 2016].