Throughout this project we relate, reflect, talk about, move back and forth and write on otherness. Instead of giving here some accurate and narrowing definition or listing of all that constitutes the notion – i.e. gender, ethnic, racial, religious, social, ageist, ableist, class alterity (the annoyingly narrowing listing we have just made here) –, we prefer to let some others speak for themselves in the following talks.
However broad and hard-to-grasp this topic would be, in the following selection of talks we found some common key features for the theory and experience of otherness we wish to address to throughout our project: the imperative of narrative, of that of telling personal stories, the reflection on our own otherness – also the urge to find a language, engage in a dialogue, recognize the fact that the process itself is more important than setting questions and giving dead-end answers and also how deeply and inevitably we all are engaged in this vast discourse.
Most importantly: finding ways to relate, accept and act are the striking similarities in these speeches.
‘The only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.’ According to Chris Abani Africa is a land of thousands of narratives. He draws the listeners’ attention to the fact that all we know about who we are comes from stories, that the language makes the world in what we live and that learning the history of other people makes us learn the history of our people:
Talking about alternative histories, a white photographer gives voice to his compassion while taking pictures for five years in Lakota reservations. Not surprisingly, Aaron Huey offers a narrative of his Lakota friends and new family that is completely antagonistic to the boastful history of the conquerors. A world apart in which the term for non-Indians stands for ‘the person who takes the best part of the meat’:
On the other hand, continuing the thread of poverty, we hear the reaction of a young woman to childhood Sunday school lectures according to which Jesus wants us to help the poor but also warns that poverty will always be around. Jessica Jackley one day just set up a microloan site as an answer to the seemingly impossible assignment:
Also pictures, thousands of pictures are made by IO Tillett Wright who grew up in a funky NY neighbourhood where not being a drag-queen, punk or artist meant to be regarded as a weirdo. The perspectives and layers of gender questions are turned around many times as she also pretended for years to be a boy and being cast in films as such. Hesitating between he-or-she identity the speaker finds that a great deal of humans would not be able to set themselves unequivocally on a 100% gay or straight scale’s two opposite ends:
Let’s turn the refugee camps into centres of excellence – suggests Melissa Fleming who sees in these too long-term gatherings of dis/misplaced people a huge fountain of talent and investment for the future. ‘How about a place of healing, learning, and even opportunity?’ she poses the question in her talk:
Seeing, perceiving, acknowledging – being aware of otherness. Mellody Hobson succeeded in her career what only one coloured women could achieve apart from her. Even though she grew up in a family where the obvious first question posed to a little girl returning from a party thrown by upper-middle class family is: ‘how did they treat you?’:
Limitation inspires creativity: two talks by people who would seem disabled, though they are gifted artists, proving that disability is neither a bad thing nor it makes us exceptional: Stella Young:
and Phil Hansen:
If you select only one speech you wish to see (just to stick ourselves to effective common places), than this should be that. A brilliant and emotional talk on additive models of love and the ecosphere of kindness:
Prodigy kids, dwarfs, deaf offspring and beauty pageant, serial killers’ mourning mothers, and finally gays and lesbians forming happy patchwork families of five parents, four children in three states. Alterities not to be changed. The personal story of Andrew Solomon interwoven with twenty years’ of research on what/how/who should (not) be mended when everything goes wrong:
Lots of pros and cons, rational arguments and emotional answers, theories of otherness, your and our personal stories, events, debates, workshops, performance lectures are about to come soon.