Us Vs. Them, By Ella Shohat

1738 words - 7 pages

In human history, war has been part of our lives; it has almost become a natural occurrence. Humans have experienced different types of war from internal and external wars. During times of war, our notion of security is threatened because an incident disrupts what we consider as normal. According to Ella Shohat, war creates binaries where people are unable to occupy multiple identities. However, we see that this is the nature of human society especially during times of “crisis”. During such times, society creates the binary notion of “us vs. them”; “us” are people who identify with the norm and are not seen as deviants, where “them” are people who are seen as “the others”, those who do not conform to our societal expectations. The others are seen as a national threat to the security of the nation state. To understand Shohat’s perspective as a victim of binarisms, analysis of the creation of “us vs. them” is critical in comprehending the oppressions that binaries create. Furthermore, we must explore what and who are threats to norms of society especially when the nation-state declares a “state of emergency”. Lastly, the ideas of borders are important to comprehend binarism and the notion of security. By addressing such issues, one is able to have a better grasp of oppressions created by nation-state especially during war times. The master utilizes these tools to create and reproduce oppression in the nation state.
In Guetner Lewy’s literature, The Nazi: Persecution of the Gypsies, the usage of the concept of “us vs. them” is evident. Gypsies were seen as a threat to the biological security of the German state. Lewy notes that Germans believed that Gypsies were nuisance and later on were seen as a problem. According to Lewy the German ideology that, “What made a Jew a Jew or Gypsy a Gypsy was something in the blood” rationalizes the labeling of Gypsies a them through biological differences(Lewy, 37)”. Gypsies were labeled as such because they do not fit the Nazi ideal of an Aryan race, which was blue eyes and blonde hair. Thus, Gypsies alongside other groups who did not fit this norm were seen as a threat to the creation of a secured state. Nazis chose to label Gypsies as others to indicate their inferiority and their lack of belonging in Nazi society.
This notion of “us vs. them” is particularly prominent during war times. It is seen during times of crisis that people who do not align with the current norms of society; thus, they are labeled as “the other”. The others are particular groups who are marginalized by society. On the daily basis, “the others” are viewed as separate entities that do not belong to the society. To distinguish who belongs and who does not, people who fit the norm are labeled as “us”; individuals who do not belong are labeled as “others”, which often are homogenized as them. The term “them” creates a notion of displacement in that society for their presence in questioned. In lecture, Prof. Mahmud stated that...

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