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I am Merely The Place

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This essay explores the proposition that the other/otherness/alterity is within us, and how we remain strangers to ourselves, as the title of the book by Julia Kristeva (1991) claims. The concept of ‘multiple identity’ is examined on the basis of Arthur Rimbaud's Je est un autre, its consequences and readings by Jacques Lacan and Julia Kristeva; and through various representations of the multiplicity that each subjectivity consists of. As Rimbaud illustrates, identity is inherent to alterity: the ‘I’ cannot be conceived of without the other, who is the condition of his existence. Otherness is something internal and originary, and constitutive for human identity. The second part of the essay reflects on the experience of living in diaspora, and specifically the experience of language, of the mother tongue, after a migration. The essay locates and discusses certain conditions of diasporic subjectivity inherently related to questions about subject formation and language. How does language (or the use of a mother-tongue) shape and form our understanding and sense of being in the world? How can speaking in another language present a form of estrangement from the self?
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Arts
Volume27
Issue5
Pages (from-to)606-626
Number of pages21
ISSN0256-0046
DOIs
StatePublished - 1-Oct-2013

ID: 14427213