Intercultural studies 

ANG 160 Fall 2005

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The Concept of other in Amerindian Lit.

(by Genevieve Belval)

In real life like in literature, people will sometimes have to confront a stranger that does not belong to the same city, country, or world. This foreigner will have specific ideas, points of view, and actions that will not be the same as the rest of the group. The newcomer represents, in fact, the Other, and the concept of Othering.

 

Othering implies that you compare the person that is named the Other with a concrete and definite reference group. This group shows the specific characteristics that should be found in everybody in order not to be considered as an Other. 

 

The first aspect that must be clarified is the distinction between simple differences and the concept of othering. In her book, Janet M. Paterson explains it wonderfully. She explains that a difference has no real impact on the reference group, comparing to othering. For example, in our society, hair color has no impact on the perception we have on others. We will not think that a person is a stranger because this person does not have the same hair color as we do. The color of the skin, though, is still seen as an aspect that will create othering. The reference group defines the concept of othering.

 

An interesting point to mention is that the concept of othering will move through times and History, depending of the society. As the reference group will not always be the same, it is normal that the concept of othering moves too.

 

In Quebec literature, the Other will often be seen as a stranger, someone that does not belong to the same place, the same world. But there is one more interesting aspect about the concept of othering in literature. Who is the Other? If the literature changes, the representation of the Other has great chance of changing too. The Natives are a very good example of the Other and of the reference group. Let’s see how.

 

In Trigger’s book, it is mentioned that Natives have been very badly described by explorers and Historians at the beginning of history. They were the perfect subjects for Othering in literature. In Dollard des Ormeaux’s story which is a classic in Quebec literature, the Natives were considered badly. Depending of their tribes and origins, they were either savages that wanted to destroy everything (Iroquoians) or cowards that did not accept to be helped (Huron). An interesting aspect of Natives literature is that in their literature, they are the reference group, and Whites are considered as Others. In White Literature, the Natives were the Others and we were the reference group. The Natives were really close to nature and they respected the spirit and soul of everything living on earth (Trigger).

 

Finally, othering is a very interesting concept that can be applied differently, depending of how it is seen. As society keeps evolving, the concept of Othering will also change. A stranger can be a figure of othering, as Whites can also be. As there are different styles of literature, there will always be different styles of Others.  


Work Cited

 

BOUDREAU, Diane. Histoire de la littérature amérindienne au Québec, Montréal, L’Hexagone, 1993, 201 pages.

 

GATTI, Maurizio. Littérature amérindienne du Québec. Écrits de langue française, Montréal, HMH, 2004, 271 pages.

 

MILES, Robert. Racism. New York and London, Rout ledge, 1989, p. 11-40.

 

PATERSON, Janet M. Figures de l’autre dans le roman québécois, Québec, Éditions Nota Bene, 2004, 238 pages.

 

TRIGGER, Bruce G. Les Indiens, la fourrure et les Blanc, Montréal, Boréal Compact, 1992, 542 pages.