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10 The dichotomy of Self and Other: Some considerations This volume has traced the development of the Traveller image as ‘Other’ through mythical and binary discourses of alterity. Until the recent arrival of a more overtly multicultural society in Ireland Travellers have constituted the ‘Other’ for mainstream Irish society. As ‘Other’ they have often acted as objects on whom power is exercised. Their representation and the roles constructed for them have been determined primarily by the settled community and have been influenced by the need to define national, social and class identity. This project of representation has used the tools of mythology and history. These two related aspects of the Irish popular tradition reinforce the fact that myth and history can never be seen as entirely separate entities. The construction of history is itself a process of mythologising and the various guises in which the Traveller image manifests itself in Irish tradition indicate that contemporary myth has deep roots in popular perceptions of history. The myth or construction that is the Traveller image is created by what is spoken or written to form a part of history and is perpetuated through contemporary notions of history and tradition . The discourses of modernity, whether formed at the individual level or (perhaps more commonly today) at the level of the mass media, work to sanction, reiterate and consolidate the myths of a people. The perpetuation of myth and stereotype is interwoven through history, as outlined by Roland Barthes (1972): ‘It is human history which converts reality into speech, and it alone rules the life and death of mythical language … Ancient or not, mythology can only have a historical foundation, for myth is a type of speech chosen by history’ (1972: 23). Central to this thesis has been an investigation of the manner by which Irish people have defined themselves in terms of Otherness, using the Traveller image as a projective mechanism. My analysis has shown that anti-Traveller Othering, like the anti-Irish Othering of the 10 Insubordinate Irish 193-204 13/6/11 14:41 Page 193 colonial era, is a complex and interwoven network of images which serves to unsettle the authority and homogeneity of totalising metanarratives . This unsettling effect claims to undermine that ‘ontological imperialism’ which Levinas (1961) said was resonant of the history of Western philosophy, a process where the relation with the other was accomplished through its assimilation with the self. The dichotomy between self and Other represented in this volume has been central to a modernity crippled by crises of identity, representation and legitimisation. It can be argued that the most radical aspect of the cultural discourse known as postmodernism1 has been this politics of identity, difference and the margins. The essential opposition or struggle between self and other is the core of this politics of difference and is a fundamental aspect of human existence, as outlined by de Beauvoir (1972): ‘The category of the Other is as primordial as consciousness itself. In the most primitive of societies, in the most ancient mythologies, one finds the expression of a duality – that of the Self and the Other … Otherness is a fundamental category of human thought’ (1972: 21). As a conclusion to this examination of Traveller alterity I wish to briefly discuss the philosophical possibilities that exist for a movement beyond the ‘politics of difference’ as it currently stands and the potential for a new theoretic dualism of Self/Other. Poststructuralist thinkers such as Jacques Derrida have been to the fore in this theoretical evolution and I discuss his notion of différance as a roadmap for future theoretical engagement with the concept of the ‘Other’. Postmodernism involves a radical critique of universal reason and truth. From the perspectives of a politics of difference, postmodernism sets out to show that certain narratives have been marginalised as a function of power. This marginalisation has been foregrounded through the materiality of language and the politics of representation. The postmodern condition has marked a shift in the priority of the Self over the Other. It involves a reinvention of the Self under the conditions of difference. Delanty (2000) sums up this shift in perspective in the following manner: Modernity reached its limits with the recognition that its most cherished discourses were founded on an act of violence against the Other … Postmodernity, I would suggest, involves a deepening of this problematic … If the Holocaust marked the culmination of the modern quest for mastery and the determination of the Other by the Self...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781847794079
MARC Record
OCLC
982026481
Pages
240
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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