Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Signifying "Otherness" and the Politics of Exclusion: Effects of Stigmatization on the Psyche of Female Lepers and Beggars in Nigeria

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Signifying "Otherness" and the Politics of Exclusion: Effects of Stigmatization on the Psyche of Female Lepers and Beggars in Nigeria

Article excerpt

Every society has its own challenge, headache and aspiration, but how these are handled makes a lot of difference. The approach to issues, the nature of the issues and the outcome of such issues are very crucial to the development and peace of the society. Nigeria as a third world country has come a long way. The country has come full cycle with the good, the bad and the ugly just like any other country of the world. The difference in Nigeria's case may be the nature and approach to problems plaguing this great nation. This paper in this light attempts an appraisal of issues that may have accounted for the underdevelopment of this great nation over the years by looking at the position of female lepers and beggars in this society and what would have been their contributions, economically, socially and politically to the development of the nation. Using the theory of "otherness" signifying exclusion, the paper brings out the plight of these unwanted in society and evaluates what they are worth in this society. The paper also examines the effect of stigmatization on the psyche of these groups of people. The focus is on female beggars in some of the major cities of Nigeria and lepers along Ore-Benin road of Nigeria.

Key words-Signifying, "Otherness", Politics, Exclusion, Lepers and Beggars.


At the end of the middle Ages, leprosy disappeared from the Western world. In the margins of the community, at the gates of cities, there stretched wastelands which sickness had ceased to haunt but had left sterile and long uninhabitable. For centuries, these reaches would belong to the non-human..., they would wait, soliciting with strange incantations a new incarnation of disease, another grimace of terror, renewed rites of purification and exclusion. (Michel Foucault, 1961, 1989:1).

Foucault here contends that the West has always wanted an "other" hence when leprosy disappeared from the streets of Europe; the West immediately invented another "other" in madness. Fanon, in the same light says that the racist always needs an "other" to prove his superiority. The point is that the issue of "otherness" can not be over-emphasized particularly where the woman is concernedwhether sane or insane, whole or physically-challenged, rich or poor. Otherness is no longer just a grammatical category in an African context but a reality that must be addressed.

The society as suggested by Foucault always has need for an "other" since no "subject" will readily submits itself as the "other" hence the constant need for "otherness" in society. There has always been the case of the majority imposing its rule over the minority just like the Negroes in America are the minority, like Jews are the minority in the Middle East and the question that readily comes to mind is, what is responsible for this idea of subjugation or one group dominating the other. The answer is not far-fetched as subjugation is as primordial as consciousness itself.

It is therefore the intention of this paper to interrogate the idea of domination, victimization and otherness as given in the Nigerian society and also to see how these have conditioned the lives of the socalled "others" in society. In doing this, the paper will also be looking at the effect of stigmatization on the psyche and the economic viability of these so-called "out-casts" of the society.

"Otherness" defines the female lepers and beggars as the other half of humanity; (if able-bodied female is victimized, who are the female lepers and beggars?) of course they are the other half that is not needed in the economic, political and social spheres of the nation. The other half that must stay out, that must not be visible because she is a disgrace to the society. "Otherness" in this case means that these set of people- the female lepers and beggars are the "adjunct" that must not be heard, that must hide under the cloak of shame. "Otherness" in this case also suggests that these same people are never to assume a subjective role in society (Ruth 1980:85-143). …

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