Is a Stranger always an Outsider?

In Joseph Harris’ Rewriting he brings up the very difficult task of countering. Countering is a way of disagreeing with someone or pointing out flaws and unanswered questions of one’s views. This is such a difficult task because the person doing the countering does should not want to come of as rude and should not just completely shoot another person’s idea down. Joseph Harris talks about three intelligent and affective ways to counter another persons Idea. The name of these three ways are “arguing the other side, dissenting, and “uncovering values. Each of these methods has its own ways of arguing a topic in different styles. The style I find to be the most affective is “arguing the other side”. Harris defines arguing the other side as  “showing the usefulness of a term or idea that a writer has criticized or noting problems with one that she or he has argued for” (Harris p.57) With this method a writer is able to argue against another writer using their own ideas while also forming their own new ideas. Also using this method a writer is able to point out good points the other writer made.

While talking about civilization and how it has changed Giddens talks about how we, as humans, say hi to people we don’t know, and we will never see again. Giddens is talking about the interaction many of us encounter at least 10 times a day where we meet eyes with someone and say “Hi, how are you?” with no real intention for a bonding to be formed. These people we have this repetitive interaction are considered strangers to us. Giddens goes on to say that in the pre-modern world, the definition and treatment of a stranger was different. People in a pre modern time would not have that interaction with a “stranger” because Giddens defines a stranger in pre-modern times as “someone who comes from the outside and is potentially suspect” (Giddens). This definition of a stranger does not seem to go deep enough into the aspects of knowing someone and when someone then does not become a stranger. With this definition, Giddens fails to explain what to call someone who is from the same culture as you yet you do not know them. Also if this definition is correct for pre modern times, if one gets to know the outsider, is the outsider still a stranger? because after all they are still someone who comes from the outside. Giddens relates the terms outsider and stranger to closely. In pre modern times I would argue that a stranger has the same definition as it does today, and strangers in pre modern and modern eras have been treated very similarly.

Although Giddens brings up good points while explaining his definitions, Giddens definition for a stranger is much more suiting for the definition of an outsider. A stranger can be defined in simpler terms as someone that is unknown and unfamiliar, both in modern and pre modern times. The treatment of strangers has been a rather constant thing throughout history and I do not expect the treatment of strangers to change during the post modern era either.

5 thoughts on “Is a Stranger always an Outsider?

  1. CJ says that, “Giddens definition for a stranger is much more suiting for the definition of an outsider.” An outsider is not from around the area and is suspect. This means that the people have no trust in the person who has just arrived. Giddens says, “Relationships are ties based upon trust, where trust is not pre-given but worked upon” (121). An outsider can easily become a friend just based around time and getting to know the person. Once trust is established this person is no longer an outsider but a member of the community. What happens if the outsider doesn’t speak the same language as the community though? Communication is just one flaw in this process.

    Stephen

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  2. Your use of Harris’ ‘arguing the other side’ is very concise and well-formulated. Giddens’ tries to defines many definitions in comparison to pre-modern and modernized times. You discuss his definition of the term “stranger” with an example, “Giddens fails to explain what to call someone who is from the same culture as you yet you do not know them. Also if this definition is correct for pre modern times, if one gets to know the outsider, is the outsider still a stranger?”. On page 118, Giddens says “The opposite of “friend” is no longer “enemy” or even “stranger”, rather it is “acquaintance”, “colleague”, or “someone I don’t know”. He talks about modern times replacing the necessity for sincerity in a relationship with authenticity, being open and well-meaning. In this sense, a stranger lacks the fundamental aspect of authenticity because you do not know them. An outsider will also lack this authenticity, and I think this is why Gidden may mistakenly use these terms interchangeably for the sake of the argument in analyzing personal relationships in a superficial manner. But I think I agree with the way he uses them, because in context a stranger and an outsider both lack any type of relationship or loyalty to me. Are there examples you can think of where an outsider can still provide a type of personal authenticity to an initial friendship?

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  3. In the situation recalled of the “interaction many of us encounter at least 10 times a day where we meet eyes with someone”, you follow up by saying “these people we have this repetitive interaction are considered strangers to us”. I would have to disagree with this as, if the same person is seen and questioned on multiple occasions, some basic knowledge of them is known, making them no longer a complete stranger. Even if just a nod hello, you can still get a general idea of the person. In multiple interactions, you can tell if the person is generally happy, the type of styles they like, even their name or occupation. If seen more than once, they are no longer a true stranger.

    Jordan

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  4. You came to the conclusion that “The treatment of strangers has been a rather constant thing throughout history.” I do not think this is true. As Giddens writes, in the pre-modern world, “with the partial exception of some larger city neighborhoods in agrarian states… the wide areas of nonhostile interactions with anonymous others characteristic of modern social activity did not exist.” (118) Today, as you wrote, encountering others and saying hello to them is something most people do “at least 10 times a day.” But this was not the case in pre-modern societies, which were typically close-knit, isolated communities, and encountering a stranger would be a rare and very likely dangerous event. Strangers were typically treated with suspicion or fear. Today, we see strangers all the time, and not only do we not fear them or expect they will attack us, but we greet them.
    I do think Giddens is overstating it a little bit, though. As you pointed out, in pre-modern societies one could get to know an outsider, and they could be accepted into a new community. Also, Giddens does not mention the trade that occurred between different groups throughout history. Furthermore, even in modern societies, being attacked by a stranger is something that one might be concerned about, though it is much less likely. There are certainly situations where strangers were treated the same in pre-modern times as they are now, but the point that Giddens is making is that “wide areas of nonhostile interactions with anonymous others” is something both unique to and pervasive in modern societies.

    AM

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  5. CJ,

    You raise a compelling point, that “The treatment of strangers has been a rather constant thing throughout history and I do not expect the treatment of strangers to change during the post modern era either.” Certainly, strangers are still sometimes considered hostile now. But I wonder what a more historicized look at these claims would do to our understanding. For example, when elevators and trains were invented, people at first found it very strange to not talk to the other people aboard. How might this kind of learned behavior impact how we understand modernity?

    ~DM

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