Whenever political and social decisions use categories of identity such as race, religion, social class, or nationality to distinguish groups of people, they risk holding certain groups as inferior and culturally “Other.” When people employ ideologies of imperialism, colonialism, patriarchy, and classism, they position certain groups as superior or ideal/ized people. Such ideological positioning causes nations to take actions that isolate or endanger minoritized populations. This cultural Othering can lead to atrocities such as Native Americans being expelled from their native lands through the Trail of Tears, millions of Ukrainians starving to death during the Holodomor, or millions of Jews exterminated during the Holocaust.
Communicating the Other across Cultures uses examples from the United States, Western Europe, and Russia to demonstrate historical patterns of Othering people, as well as how marginalized people fight back against dominant powers that seek to silence or erase them. Deeply ingrained in our society, cultural Othering affects information in history books, children’s education, and the values upheld in our society. By taking a closer look at historical and modern instances of Othering, Julia Khrebtan-Hörhager shows examples of how different societies created ideas of social and cultural superiority or inferiority, and how deeply they are ingrained in our current society. In everyday life—the cash in your pocket, the movies shown at your local theater, museum exhibits, or politician's speeches—certain cultural ideologies are consistently upheld, while others are silenced. By exposing the communicative patterns of those in power, Khrebtan-Hörhager then suggests alternative ways of thinking, communicating, and eventually being, that offer transformative solutions for global problems.
Julia Khrebtan-Hörhager is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Colorado State University, Director of Education Abroad Programs in Italy, Program Director of the ACT International Human Rights Film Festival, and a Global Scholar at the Institute for Shipboard Education/Semester at Sea.