Two kinds of othering

According to Wikipedia “when the term the Other is used as the verb Othering, it labels (distinguishes and identifies) someone as belonging to a category defined as the Other. The practice of Othering is the exclusion of persons who do not fit the norm of the social group, which is a version of the Self.”

It is interesting that of all words, we use this word to designate reduction of other individuals to mere instances of categories, which are mental extensions of one’s own self. It is precisely otherness — that of their being that transcends our minds — that we deny others. Seen this way, it would make more sense to call it Selfing.

It is also interesting that many so-called “religious people” are the quickest to reduce everything to the terms of their doctrine, which, contrary to their doctrines, is precisely denial of transcendence, not its affirmation. The greatest reduction of all is the ultimate Other, God, who becomes a personal possession — a mental idol worshiped as God in place of God.


I see two categories of othering. The usual negative othering (or anti-othering), such as racism, sexism or xenophobia is contemptuous disregard of those categorized as instances of despised groups. The disregard will be underpinned by different styles of justification, usually essentialist on the illiberal right and sociological on the illiberal left.

Positive othering (or philo-othering) is the same reduction of individuals to instances of categories (and in the process, depriving the other of otherness), but the value assigned to the other is affirmative. This process still denies the transcendent reality of the affirmed other, but awards the dehumanized other favorable status. By this way of thinking, reverse-racism should not be used to designate hatred of white people by black people (that’s simply racism), but rather that strong inclination of white leftists to view all people classifiable as “people of color” in a favorable light, instead of approaching individuals as the individuals they are.


Liberalism seeks conditions to allow each individual to self-classify — to choose they groups they represent — and to adopt whatever intersectional identity they wish to have, not those imposed by others. As long as these classifications are imposed, liberalism still has work to do. It is unclear to me that philo-othering or affirming equal-but-opposite anti-othering is helpful to this cause.


Fundamentalist philo-othering of God denies God’s reality at least as much as atheist anti-othering of God. When I hear debates between fundamentalists and atheists see anti-otherers and philo-otherers collaborating on a worldview where religion has no place.

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