Consuming the Exotic Other

by Suren Lalvani


This article explores the multiple and heterogeneous deployment of the Other within discourses that intersect and contest each other. In the nineteenth century, the discourse of “le femme orientale” which informed the Romantic critique of capitalism, was recuperated in a hegemonic manner to promote a commodity fetish and an expanding consumer culture. The success of this transference was guaranteed by Romanticism, which not only underwrote the discourse of orientalism but ironically advanced a psychology commensurate with the emergence of a consumer society. Since the colonial representation of Otherness operates in a manner analogous to the psychoanalytic fetish, the discursive construction of Otherness is neither fixed nor continuous but ambivalent. The multiple and reciprocal interaction of the twin modes of differentiation—the racial and the sexual—enables the erotic recognition of the Other/the threat of difference to be displaced into alternative fields of power/ knowledge relations and into an economy of desire productive of power.

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