Monday, November 20, 2006

The Psychic Cosmopolis

I wanted to say something about Kristeva's Strangers to Ourselves other than it perplexed me at times or that she had keen things to say about cosmopolitanism in the ancient world. Here is her main thesis, which is really rather straightforward:

The image of hatred and of the other, a foreigner is neither the romantic victim of our clannish indolence nor the intruder responsible for all the ills of the polis. Neither the apocalypse on the move nor the instant adversary to be eliminated for the sake of appeasing the group. Strangely, the foreigner lives within us: he is the hidden face of our identity, the space that wrecks our abode, the time in which affinity and understanding founder. By recognizing him within ourselves, we are spared detesting him in himself. A symptom that precisely turns "we" into a problem, perhaps makes it impossible, the foreigner comes in when the consciousness of my difference arises, and he disappears when we all acknowledge ourselves as foreigners, unamenable to bonds and communities.

(p. 1)

And there you see the problem. I can acknowledge myself as a foreigner easily enough, but can we? I think so, but then I don't believe the foreigner does make "we" impossible. The question remains, "Who is this we?" The hetero-ipseic we? Is it also a pragmatic we? A provisional we? Under what conditions can it become effective? (And yes, the thought occurs to me that it may be a very priviliged we. I don't know what to do with that.)

Before the recent elections in the United States, I would have thought that explicitly xenophobic sentiments were taboo. In any event, the electorate by and large repudiated xenophobia in its most extreme forms. If explicit xenophobia is indeed politically unpopular, is that pretty much the end of the matter? I'm dubious. I just don't know what to make of the persistence of xenophobia. It seems to come and go. We can recognize some of the conditions that accompany its recrudesence, but do we know enough to make it stop? Is there truly a historical trajectory away from xenophobia, or is that just wishful thinking? I really don't know.

For more on the topic, check out Eliot Benítez' Denial of Recognition of the the Subjectivity of the Other.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 9:53 AM.


Blogger Cornealius said...

Hi I have just written a piece about alternative healing and psychic reading and would be interested in your opinion of it

it's at

November 26, 2006 4:05 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Well, you've got the misanthropy thing down pat. That sort of thing doesn't really work for me.

November 27, 2006 11:35 AM  

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