A Time for the Humanities: Futurity and the Limits of Autonomy

By James J. Bono; Tim Dean et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
The Foreign, the Uncanny,
and the Foreigner:
Concepts of the Self and
the Other in Psychoanalysis and
Contemporary Philosophy

Rudi Visker

Although the first and the last word in my title differ by only one syllable, it is this, at first sight, negligible difference that will be at the center of this paper’s attempt to question one of the few themes on which today’s humanities seem, by and large, in agreement: the idea that there is a link between the theme of the foreign (the strange, the other small “o”) and that of the foreigner (the stranger, the Other capital “o”). This link seems to be so evident that it is hardly ever articulated—it is, more often implicitly than explicitly, itself linked with a number of assumptions concerning the role that psychoanalysis could play in a “progressive” contemporary philosophy. One of these assumptions is that, if one follows psychoanalysis in introducing the other into the self, the relation between such a self and the Other (the foreigner, the stranger) will become less tense. This belief in the possible results of combining psychoanalysis and a philosophical valuation of the Other is exemplarily formulated by Julia Kristeva, an author with a well-established reputation both in philosophical and in analytical circles, in a short passage from which I will start off my analysis.

However, before doing so, I should first like to stress again its exemplarity. Its authorship is in a sense of secondary importance; what matters is that a certain author, named Kristeva, and regardless of what she may have said elsewhere, gives voice in this passage to an énoncé, a discursive statement that isn’t

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