Proceedings Journal Article — Differences in Difference: “Cognitive Mapping” of the Landscape of Otherness — by Amil K. Jain

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Different things are different with difference. It is a liquid, fluid category, which evades any effort to fix it. Paradoxically, the closer you approach to it, the more you move away from it, for the different, by its character, can never be identified. Once it seems to be grasped, it suddenly disappears, even turns to the opposite— it becomes in-different: identical. No space of unfolding difference is left in the process of defining the different. Defining difference means violating, means destroying it. Is there a way out of this trap?

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Abstract

Different things are different with difference. It is a liquid, fluid category, which evades any effort to fix it. Paradoxically, the closer you approach to it, the more you move away from it, for the different, by its character, can never be identified. Once it seems to be grasped, it suddenly disappears, even turns to the opposite— it becomes in-different: identical. No space of unfolding difference is left in the process of defining the different. Defining difference means violating, means destroying it. Is there a way out of this trap? Perhaps we have to take a different route to approach the field of difference. In this paper I try and conceive difference not as a fixed category but as a certain relation. Difference is a space in-between—that “third” space that opens up in the process of constructing “otherness.” Accordingly, difference can either be seen as a “gap” or as a “bridge.” It is only possible to speak of difference in relation to other categories, things, people etc. Or to bemore accurate: difference is created in this relation. So it seems that if we know about the other categories, things, people, etc. (and their relation), we get very close to the difference which differentiates them.

Jain, Amil K. 2005. “Differences in Difference: “Cognitive Mapping” of the Landscape of Otherness.” Pp. 261-268 in Theories and Praxes of Difference: Revisiting Edward Said in the Age of New Globalizations: Proceedings of the Second Annual Social Theory Forum, April 6-7, 2005 (Discourse of Sociological Practice, Vol. 7, Issues 1&2, Fall/Spring 2005). Double-Issue Guest Editor: Mohammad H. Tamdgidi. Sociology Department, UMass Boston.


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