Week 4: Othering

Khaalidah Sidney



31st January 2013


In Margo Machida’s Unsettled Visions Chapter two entitled: Othering discussed three important facts regarding the West and Asians and Asian Americans in visual art. These three things include primitivism, orientalism, and stereotyping. She also explores several artists such as Allan deSouza and Pipo. Machida also explains how those three things can play into art through a Western like narrative. For instance, she suggest that Westerners view Asian Americans with orientalism and primitive nature throughout historically and these ideas still are predominate in Art.


The Orient can be considered the oldest master narrative of racialized othering, it is a system used to represent others who do not fit the western norms. The Orient is not just something defined a geographical space opposing the west, but also the blurred line of cultural spheres and where they end and begin. This idea is needed to give western countries such as North America a sense of national security and superiority. In Art, westerns like to play with the idea of racialized othering and constantly exoticize their culture, physical features and mental capacity. I believe the images of an Artist depicted in class who left his life as an successful American, to visit a region in Asia. It depicted not only a primitive nature of Asians but an othering as well.


In this topic she discusses how Asians and Asian Americans are always seen as culturally and intellectually backwards in comparison to Europeans and Americans. Machida uses words such as Asia as a “zone of barbarism”, “Culturally inferior” and “Uncivilized”. This is emphasized in her definition provided for Primitive as something that is a part of a premodern culture. Establishing that the west is modernize and others, such as people of the Orient is not. In the art word there has been many depictions of Asians being barbaric such as rat eaters, dirty, unclean and opium addicts.


It talks about Asian Americans being seen as both barbaric but also intelligent, and this shifting view is harmful to Asian Americans.        She mentions two categories for Asian American stereotypes. Those that targets their assimilability and un-assimilability. Stereotypes that depicts them as respectful, helpful are able to assimilate and cunning, evil, deceitful are inassimilable. Either or, these views are damaging. 


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