The notion of ‘otherness’ designates the state of being different from the social identity we assign to ourselves. These others contain identities that are distinct and different from what one considers to be the ‘truth’, and express a divergence from what we consider to be an acceptable social norm or identity. In assigning the label of other to an individual, we are lending them to become disenfranchised and we exclude them from the center of society, placing them instead on the fringes. In essence, we assign them the label of subaltern native.
This concept can be witnessed in the way in which minorities and sexual outcasts were thought of during post-revolutionary America. During the times, the social structures that were in power were in control of the idea of what was considered ‘natural’ or ‘civilized’. To not be a part of this group was to be considered an ‘other’. In many instances, these fringe groups consisted of minorities such as Indigenous people and enslaved African Americans. These groups were therefore considered to be noncitizens.
The labeling of these groups caused them to encounter many issues during the time. Most important to the idea of othering is the idea that negative sexual attributes were assigned to these groups, creating a society that both feared and lusted after these minority groups. Specifically it was thought that these groups experienced hyper sexuality. This caused these fringe individuals to become the object of mainstream societies repressed sexual fantasies. They were highly fetishisezed to the point of extreme lust. This created a very dangerous situation for the fringe group, resulting in sexual harassment, sexual humiliation, and rape. These methods were used to maintain control of the minority group just as much as it was to experience sexual satisfaction.
By labeling these fringe groups as the other, they opened them up to a lifetime of horrendous acts. This designation allowed the mainstream society the opportunity to both raise the others up, as a sexual object to desire, as well as a minority oddity that is to be dominated. Through their multiple attempts at controlling the others, they created a scenario in which this group was forever ostracized1 to the outskirts of society.