Re: [xmca] Fwd: [lchc] Wertsch

From: Steve Gabosch (
Date: Sat Aug 19 2006 - 12:49:52 PDT

I find the discussion below on "alterity"
helpful. Bakhtin's use of the term is discussed in the third paragraph.


(2.6 y)
1 C! Sun Oct 20 2002 at 17:03:33

Alterity is derived from the
alteritas, meaning "the state of being other or
different; diversity, otherness". Its
derivatives are alternate, alternative,
alternation, and alter ego. The term alterité is
more common in
and has the
<>antonym identité.

The term was adopted by
as an alternative to "otherness" to register a
change in the Western perceptions of the
relationship between
and the
individual consciousness had been taken as the
privileged starting point for consciousness, and
appears in these
philosophies as a reduced "other," as an
epistemological question. That is, in a concept
of the human in which everything stems from the
notion that
think, therefore I am", the chief concern with
the other is to be able to answer questions such
as "How can I know the other?", "How can other
minds be known?" The term "alterity" shifts the
focus of analysis away from these philosophic
concerns with otherness - the
other", the other that is only important to the
extent to which it can be known - to the more
concrete "moral other" - the other who is
actually located in a
context. This is a key feature of changes in the
concept of subjectivity, because, whether seen in
the context of
or discourse, the "construction" of the subject
itself can be seen to be inseparable from the
of its others.

theorists commonly see the most influential use
of alterity in
Bakhtin's description of the way in which an
moves away from identification with a character.
The novelist must understand his or her character
from within, as it were, but must also perceive
it as other, as apart from its creator in its
distinct alterity. Importantly, dialogue is only
possible with an "other", so alterity, in
Bakhtin's formulation, is not simply
but an apartness that stands as a precondition of
dialogue, where dialogue implies a transference
across and between differences of
and other <>social categories.

This is related to his concept of
or "outsideness", which is not simply
but a precondition for the author's ability to
understand and formulate a character, a precondition for dialogue itself.

theory, the term has often been used
inter-changeably with
However, the distinction that initially held
between otherness and alterity - that between
otherness as a philosophic problem and otherness
as a feature of a material and discursive
- is peculiarly applicable to post-colonial
discourse. The self-identity of the colonizing
subject, indeed the identity of
culture, is inextricable from the alterity of
colonized others, an alterity determined by a
process of othering. The possibility for
potential dialogue between racial and cultural
others has also remained an important aspect of
the use of the word, which distinguishes it from its synonyms.

Patterson, David. "Laughter and the Alterity of
Truth in Bakhtin's Aesthetics." Discours
Social/Social Discourse. 3:1-2 (1990): 293-309.
Pechey, Graham. "On the Borders of Bakhtin:
Dialogization, Decolonization." The Oxford
Literary Review. 9:1-2 (1987); 58-84.
Taussig, M. Mimesis and Alterity. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Tue Dec 21 1999 at 21:44:27

Al*ter"i*ty (#), n. [F. alt'erit'e.]

The state or quality of being other; a being otherwise.

For outness is but the feeling of otherness
(alterity) rendered intuitive, or alterity visually represented. Coleridge.

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