[Reader-list] Fourth Posting

Aparajita De aparajita_de at rediffmail.com
Thu Jul 29 13:32:12 IST 2004

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In this study my attempt has been to grasp the construction of self understanding and other understanding through a spatialized ontology at the theoretical level. Let me first focus on the construction of self understanding and other understanding. At the outset, I’d like clarify that when refer to self and other I am referring to a collective self and other. 

Logically my next question is what could be the base or bases of such collective self and other understandings? These base/bases could be a particular set or sets of attributes – like interests, values, race or color, religion, ethnicity, region, language, caste, class, gender and sexual orientation. Thus the shared common attribute/attributes becomes the basis of defining oneself vis-à-vis others as a distinct entity with markedly unique and different set of learned values, beliefs, culture, practices, attitudes, behavior, ethos and world view. This at once indicates a simultaneous process of categorization and identification of self vis-à-vis others and understanding of self by others. A sense of self, of who one is and equally important of who one is not emerges from such a process. What I mean is that self and other understanding is dualistic construct. But does that necessarily indicate that understanding of self and other is dichotomized, standing out in binary opposition to or in conflict with one another? And why not? I think that is not the case because one can have multiple experiences of commonality, connectedness, sense of belonging and affinities. This is especially true in today’s plural, multicultural world as well as when we regard understanding of self vis-à-vis others over time and space. What I am trying to argue is that multiple understanding of self and others proliferate and are rarely singular and definitive as the multiple experiences of commonality, connectedness, sense of belonging and affiliations are not estranged from one another and they do interact, cross-flows and conflicts do occur. It is in fact blurred, which means that self understanding and understanding of others cannot be reduced to a single understanding as it would only be a facet and an oversimplification of the many understandings that one may have of self and others. 

Then does self understandings and other understandings a mere abstraction? Doesn’t particular form or forms of it do manifest in everyday lifeworlds? It does. In recent years through out the world, movements based on such particularistic understandings of self – that of ethnicity, caste, gender, sexual orientation has been on the rise. And here lies the problem and the contradiction in the entire concept but it also raises the question that when does a particularistic understanding of self and others emerge?

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