“In 1940, having been captured by local Nazis and dumped in a prisoner of war camp, a young meteorologist called Jean Paul Sartre picked up a copy of ‘Being and Nothingness’ and did what many of us do when reading Heideggerian philosophy in dystopic end of world settings: start to doubt the reality of his existence and wonder whether his place in the world was the punchline to somebody’s sadistic joke. Sartre was not the first philosopher to talk about the Other in society, but during this nine-month stint as a prisoner of war, 21st-century existentialism as we know it was conceived. Othering has deep roots in anthropological, evolutionary, philosophical, and psychoanalytic tradition. It is part of our basic primal instinct as social animals to Other: that is, to separate the social unit into ingroups and outgroups based on obvious deciding factors such as gender and race.”
We all have the propensity to Other individuals in society – whether based on race, class, gender, political belief, sexual orientation, religion, neurodiversity, (dis)ability, immigration status or even because of our own perceived victimhood or colonial mindset. “The Other” is a nonfiction book that looks at various Others in society, through the lens of some of the great philosophers, psychologists, and writers throughout history.
Rabya is a researcher at the University of Cambridge Department of Psychiatry. Her research interests are around our society’s view of the Other, particularly how and why we group ‘self’ and ‘other’ into categories – and then give those categories different hierarchies and characteristics.