Cultural Studies Terms/Difference/Other

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The condition, quality, or fact of being different, or not the same in quality or in essence; dissimilarity, distinction, diversity; the relation of non-agreement or non-identity between two or more things, disagreement. (Oxford Dictionary)

1. Difference is essential to meaning
Binary oppositions = According to Jacques Derrida there is always a relation of power between the two poles of a binary opposition. E.g. white/black, masculine/feminine.
2. We need difference because we can only construct meaning through the dialogue with the Other (Bakhtin).
Everything we say mean is modified by the interaction and the interplay with another person.
3. The marking of difference is the basis of a symbolic order which we call culture.


The condition of being perceived as strange or different. E.g. Otherness can be demonstrated in visual representation (racial and ethnic difference).

The Other is fundamental to the constitution of the self.

1. Oedipus complex: (=after the Oedipus story in Greek myth)
Freud’s main idea: the young boy develops an unconscious erotic attraction to the mother.
2. Mirror stage:
during the mirror stage the child is able to recognize itself as a unified subject to develop language and take on a sexual identity (Lacan).
3. Sexual difference:
young children get to know the difference of the two sexes by observation.

Related Terms:

Preferred meaning: Which of the meanings in an image does a magazine privilege? Is there a right or wrong meaning? Often the caption singles out one of many possible meanings.

Inter-textuality: an accumulation of meanings across different texts, where one image refers to another, or has its meanings altered when ‘read’ in the context of other images.