Friday, January 24, 2014

Notes on The Kabuliwallah, Caste System, and the Other

When social, cultural, or literary critics use the term ‘the Other’ they are thinking about the social and/or psychological ways in which one group excludes or marginalizes another group. By declaring someone ‘Other,’ persons tend to stress what makes them dissimilar from or opposite of another, and this carries over into the way they represent others, especially through stereotypical images.

The Other refers, or attempts to refer, to that which is other than the initial concept being considered. The Constitutive Other often denotes a person Other than one's self; hence, the Other is identified as "different"; thus the spelling is often capitalized.

A person's definition of the 'Other' is part of what defines or even constitutes the self (in both a psychological and philosophical sense) and other phenomena and cultural units. It has been used in social science to understand the processes by which societies and groups exclude 'Others' whom they want to subordinate or who do not fit into their society.

The concept of 'otherness' is also integral to the comprehending of a person, as people construct roles for themselves in relation to an 'other' as part of a process of reaction that is not necessarily related to stigmatization or condemnation.

Othering is imperative to national identities, where practices of admittance and segregation can form and sustain boundaries and national character. Othering helps distinguish between home and away, the uncertain or certain. It often involves the demonization and dehumanization of groups, which further justifies attempts to civilize and exploit these 'inferior' others.

The self (how a person sees himself or herself) requires the Other to define itself (I know who I am because I am not you).

Kabuliwallahs are foreign dried-fruit vendors, who are generally in the lower sections of the caste system, therefore looked down upon in the Indian society in the late 19th century.

The caste system in India was created and developed over time to create "balance" in society. It was very relevant during the extensive time period of the British rule over India for over 200 years, until Gandhi broke it in 1947.

For the "kabuliwala" is of the lowest class, while the family is of a much higher class, technically not allowing him to even talk to the family.

The caste system created socioeconomic boundaries, for it did not allow poor men in the lower class to associate with people of higher classes. The people of the higher classes were more economically sound and prosperous, therefore not allowing them to interact with people of the lower caste.

The Indian caste system is an example of Othering within members of a society.

Rabindranath Tagore recognized the principle of ‘othering’ but sought unity in diversity saying in his essay, The Religion of Man, “whatever name our logic may give to the truth of human unity, the fact can never be ignored that we have our greatest delight when we realize ourselves in others, and this is the definition of love.”

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