Hyphenating Identities and Their Othered Others

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There is an interesting paradox in modern philosophy. Philosophy from at least Descartes onwards was mostly written in the vernacular language but expected to say something universal and absolutely true. This raises an intriguing question. Can the universal be expressed in a particular language? Will, it not carrying elements of the particular situation and contaminate the universal truth? Are we to give up natural language and embrace the artificial or formal language of logical forms and mathematics? The local language is expected to carry the universal truth that will speak even to those that do not speak or understand it. This aporia may open us to several of our claims that stake universality and absolute truth while being expressed in local cultural forms and linguistic idiom.

Within this train of thought, we can examine the exclusive claims of caste, race, nationality, religion, and culture. These identities are philosophical and are constituted by specific conditions of history, geography, demography and cultural fertility. This means exclusive claims of nationalism, caste, religion, race, and culture are not outside of philosophy. They are exclusive and excluding philosophies that claim absolute self-presence and enclosure in our society. This exclusive, isolationist, independent self-presence is a fantasy where we are blind to the fact that exclusive claims are actually excluding claims. We may understand that all exclusive claims are excluding claims if we reflect on what they exclude. It is by excluding or outlawing of that which is thought to be the other/ the contaminant that one construes its positions as being self-present and universal.

The truth is that this masked self-presence is haunted by what is othered and excluded. What is thought to be on the outside or is kept outside is on its inside and is haunting these claims of absolute self-presence that grounds their claim to universality. It is, therefore, a particularity that masquerades as the universal truth by silencing or annulling othered other that belongs to it but is considered as a rival to its being. The challenge is to think together with the othered others of nationalism, caste, race, religion and culture. We have to bridge this imaginary outside built by our exclusive either /or thinking. The othered others of the nationalism, caste, religion and culture are not on the outside rather they are inside them. In fact nationalism, caste, race, religion and culture incorporates the othered others that they exclude. Hence, thinking together nationalism, race, caste, religion and culture with respective othered other brings about the hyphenation of the othered others along their side.

Besides, they all carry something of philosophy. In fact, they carry the contamination of the armoury of political philosophy. They are all political philosophies in their own right. The fact that every one of them cannot be fully self-present and thus each of them only remains in the coming. Hence, desire for them cannot be easily destroyed. We hanker for them because unfortunately we are used to think with disjunctive terms. We are indeed enslaved to our either/or habitual thinking. Hence, we have the challenge to embrace the conjunctive modes of thinking But avoiding the conjunctive dialectical modes of thinking that remain oppositional, I propose hyphenation as the way ahead to think affirmatively and dialogically. Hyphenation opens the borders closed by isolationist oppositional dialectical thinking. It manifests to us that all identities are incomplete and depend for their valences/ meanings on the others othered by them. This shows that the duality of opposition is a fantasy and the term and its other belong together. This means we have the challenge to think hyphenatingly all identities and their othered others.

The identities that we have considered are political philosophies. This consideration is important because like identities, philosophies are also in the coming. they are in the process of becoming. Philosophies are also hyphenated. They carry seeds of other philosophies within them that may germinate and displace the one/those that we have considered. The colours and shades of nationalism, caste, race, religion and culture might evolve and so will the kind of philosophies that animate them for now. This means no philosophy is pure. All philosophies carry their othered others within them. The othered others of the philosophies are not on the other side siding against it. They are on the same side and siding for each other. Philosophies therefore can also be thought through the logic of hyphenation that we have introduced into our thinking.

The logic of hyphenation suggests that the reigning nationalism, caste, race, religion and culture carry the seeds of their own othered others that might germinate over time and edit the form and matter of that is reigning in them. Nation for instance is a hyphen-nation. There is already the othered others of the nation hyphenated within it. This points out that philosophies that are embedded in nationalism, caste, race, religion and culture both animate and betray them. Thus, they open us to the coming of new forms of politics of nationalism, caste, race, religion and culture. While this can open us to the limited possible horizon, it can also open us to the unlimited horizon of the impossible.

Nationalism, caste, race, religion and culture set into the horizon of the impossible opens us to their total transformation that we cannot see coming. It might turn everything that they close and into an open mode of being. If I can speculate which is not allowed in the absolute horizon, we may get an insight into how all identities pass through the semiotic black hole and understand how their isolationist, excluding closed boundaries, may break so that new global solidarities and cosmopolitanisms that are embracive of every shade and trace of otherness may spring forth in the world bringing peace, harmony and prosperity to our global human community. Thus, all identities in the absolute horizon will lose their false enclosures imposed and stamped by the ink of our either/ or thinking. All oppositions and negations will dissolve into affirmation. All that I have asserted about the absolute horizon is my vague speculation. What will really come in the absolute horizon is affirmative but of what nature cannot be known. Besides, the manner and the moment of its coming also remain open and unknown to us. But One thing is certain, life on the absolute horizon is always an affirmation. We are challenged to live a yes/ amen on the absolute horizon.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao