Join the Identity Game!

Hey, folks, let’s play a game. Let’s make a list of who is the Other for your national identity. Who is it very very important for you not to be like?

For, instance:

Ukraine obviously has Russia as its Other

For Russia the Other is the US (which is such a lazy choice)

For Canada, the Other is also the US but it’s also the only actual neighbor, so it’s not that lazy a choice

For Argentina, it’s the non-white Latin America (which means all of Latin America)

I have no idea who the Other is for India, for instance. Is it China? We obviously have no Chinese readers, so we can’t ask them who their Other is.


26 thoughts on “Join the Identity Game!”

        1. One would think, but no, still Pakistan. Pakistan is used as an other because it can be used to rile up religious bigotry at home and win votes in a Hindu majority country.


        2. India is supposed to be a secular state (no official state religion). Pakistan is an Islamic state. For example, you would not have a Shah Bano case in Pakistan.

          Both share an Independence Day of August 15, 1947, but it’s never as important as other national holidays because this was decided by British fiat along with the border and that lead to the mess of Partition, with people being massacred and fleeing to India and from India. Republic Day in India is more important, for example.

          India was “non aligned.” Pakistan was a US ally. India got involved in the Bangladeshi War of Independence because a genocide resulted and all of these people ended up fleeing into India and well, the geography was a mess. They’re still fighting over Kashmir. For example, what Kashmiri Pandits still live in Kashmir?

          It’s not China because 1)China trounced India in the only war they got into and 2)they don’t share a colonial history of any kind and 3)Chinese cultures and Indian cultures are more distinct from each other than North Indian cultures and certain Pakistani cultures.


  1. Oh, for India it’s easy – it’s Pakistan. ‘If you don’t like the government, then go to Pakistan’, is a common insult.


  2. As an American I’m not sure, maybe Europe in general and France in particular (not sure how much that is inherited from Britain).

    In Poland it’s going to be Russia and Germany in that order (though at times Germany nudges into first place).

    For China I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s Japan (especially in an Asian context) but that’s kind of a guess (I would have guessed Pakistan for India).


    1. Maybe early in America’s history Europe and France were the big ones, but that doesn’t account for many Americans’ racism (although the hate for socialist policies is a newer theme that would support Europe). I argue for China below.

      For China, yeah, I’d think Japan for the more Asian context. Globally, maybe America though? They certainly do a fair bit of bashing/anti-American propaganda in their state controlled media. And in their armies of internet spammers. But maybe that’s my American egotism speaking up? 😉


    2. America has a significant amount of people who “Americans” resist as seeing as “real” even if they’ve lived there for generations. So that complicates things.
      The entire “birther” controversy was “We don’t see black people as American” (it’s not anything else).

      It used to be Great Britain up until the World Wars.

      But yeah, “Oriental”/”Mexican”/”Muslim” switch off on “other” right now. (I’m simplifying, massively.)

      For Korea, it’s Japan.


  3. For England, at the moment, it seems to be Europe. I honestly can’t speak for the rest of the UK, all four nations seem to be in freefall, downwards. I’m pretty depressed about the whole sorry mess, which my children will pay dearly for and it’s not their choice. Don’t ask for referenda, folks! You won’t get what you want, whichever way you vote.


  4. Ooo – good question/fun game!

    I am not sure what the American answer is… For many Americans, it’s probably anyone not white/western European enough. But then again, it might be anyone vaguely socialist. In the past, obviously Russia was the biggest “other” boogeyman. Now, maybe China? It’s not white, it’s communist, it’s used as a boogeyman…

    Yeah, I’m going to go with China for now. I think China is even “othered” by coastal liberal types too, due to aversions to top-down conformity, oppression of ethnic minorities, and general shared American history. So I think China is probably the most universal other for Americans these days. I’d like to see others’ (pun intended!) answers though!


    1. “Now, maybe China? It’s not white, it’s communist, it’s used as a boogeyman…”

      I think for the kind of Other that Clarissa seems to be referencing here the Other has to have a certain amount of prestige (either higher or roughly similar to the home culture). This kind of other is what people don’t want to see in their mirror (but are afraid they might).

      On that count China fails since I don’t think Americans respect it enough or see it as similar in stature enough to the Other.

      So I’m going to go with the EU as the US’s current other as it embodies many values that Americans traditional find kind of distasteful even as it respects many European achievements.


  5. For many Latin Americans, it’s usually Mexicans. And for Mexicans, it seems to be Peruvians. I believe because of the heavy indigenous ancestry of Peru.


    1. “For many Latin Americans, it’s usually Mexicans.”

      Because of proximity to the US?

      “And for Mexicans, it seems to be Peruvians”

      Never noticed but very believable for the reason you cite.

      For Spain would it be Latin America in general? Mexico in particular?


      1. Mexico hasn’t had a caudillo, hasn’t had a military dictatorship for a century and never stopped throwing it into everybody else’s faces. They’ve had, at least nominally, a stable democracy for 100 years that nobody in the US has had.

        For Spain, it’s always somebody in Europe. First, it was France, then Britain. Now Germany seems to be stepping into that role. At least, when a Spanish writer wants to illustrate cluelessness and idiocy, a German character will be used for that purpose.


    2. For central america is Mexico. Mexicans claim they’re so much better when in reality there’s no such big differences. I don’t think Mexicans think of Peru at all. The US is their nemesis.

      South America: Peruvians can’t stand Chileans.

      It’s always neighboring countries if you notice (otherwise they’ll be together.)


  6. For Norway, it’s Sweden. (No, I know you can’t tell the difference.) We only other (verb!) locally sourced Others.
    For Sweden, it’s Denmark. (Yes, you still can’t tell the difference.)
    For Denmark, it’s Sweden. (You can tell what I would write here, though, right?)
    For Finland, it’s also Sweden. (They’re a different language group! Still no? Meh.)

    I could be wrong. If I am, some other scandinavian will show up and lecture me. Is cool. We’re not very good at the othering.


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