Tuesday, September 02, 2003

But those things which have no significance of their own are interwoven for the sake of the things which are significant.
- Saint Augustine, the City of God

While on the subject of cultural theory, the above seems to be the defining element in the choice of information and patterns for consideration. The entire history of theory as also its evolution seems to be nothing but an elaboration, explanation and internalization of otherness or that which we are not. This, in consequence leads to the greater subject of identity politics, and reason why our being in the way we perceive it, is justified.

Over ages, our others have changed and molded to the needs of the times. The objectivity of the sightings of these others is definitely of consequence, but of more importance is the consideration as to what these others signified to the supposed mainstream. The continuous and contiguous lines in the readings trace the genealogy of wildness, otherness and difference through the classical, medieval and modern times, elaborating common links as to their treatment and their construction.

Otherness , thus, beginning with the original concept of the wild man and progressing to that of the noble savage before heading towards the modern concept of the cyborg is that which challenges all that is sacred and potentially fragile if questioned. To encompass all of the above under a single terminology, otherness is the chink in the armour of faith. It is that which does not fit and hence interferes in the perceived order of things and their functions. Consequently, reactions to the various forms take on the likeness of a fetish oscillating between extreme revulsion and overriding awe. These are either, that which we aspire to be as an unattainable ideal or that which we steer clear of and repudiate in no uncertain terms. Only through permanent preservation in either the negativity or the Eden of the times can society and culture hope to preserve contemporary form. Otherness is as important for convenience of classification as it is for maintenance of homogeneity.

The wild man and the noble savage are extreme ends of the oscillation, one serving to signify what society stresses on as right, acceptable and important and the other serving as a reminder of what has gone wrong while in cultural breakdown and societal disillusionment. Thus, the significance of these metaphors is in different times, the former in stability and the latter in breakdown. In either case, the signifier is but an indicator to manage instability or explain away elements that do not fit into the overall scheme of things. Thus, the power equation is never tilted on the side of those thus signified. It is rather, an instrument to steer society towards that which is viewed by those in power as acceptable.

Make any sense?

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