Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World

By Judith M. Lieu | Go to book overview
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9 'The Other'

Wherever we look for the emergence of 'the self' there looms the spectre of 'the other'. This has been true in the explorations of the preceding chapters: tracing the boundaries demands peering over to see what lies beyond, and asking why it (or 'they') must be excluded; stereotypes of the paradigmatic masculinity of the self assimilate the threat of woman to that of 'the other'; naming and being named involves being named as, or naming, those who are not 'us'. So, also, it is a commonplace throughout the literature on the construction of identity that the discovery of the self is inseparable from that of 'the other'. Certainly, further questions follow: it can be asked which comes first—does the recognition of that which is 'not-us' make it then possible to speak of 'us', or is our articulation of who 'we' already are achieved by the subsequent description of the doppelgänger of otherness? It is difficult to suppose that the question could be answered in absolute terms, both because in practice what we find is a dialectic between the two, and because once we decide that identity is constructed, then clearly both the sense of self and that of the other are constructed in mutual interaction. However, to recognize this is to recognize that the other is no more other absolutely and in essence than is the self primordially given, even though the senses of givenness and of unchange-ability always are a potential, and frequently become a rhetorically asserted truth in the discourse of identity. Acknowledging this acts as a reminder that there can be other relationships with difference and alterity than the oppositional, although it is the latter that has tended to dominate studies of identity and otherness in antiquity as well as in the present. It forces the question as to whether 'the other' as other, negatively stereotyped if not


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