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Others in the making of selves

Studies in Symbolic Interaction

ISBN: 978-1-84663-930-2, eISBN: 978-1-84663-931-9

Publication date: 25 July 2008


Unfortunately, I am not the first to attempt to map out the narrative terrain of Others. In 1985, R. S. Perinbanayagam presented various social theorists’ conceptions of the Other in his book Signifying Acts: Structure and Meaning in Everyday Life. Basically, they comprise three Others: the Generalized Other, the Meiotic Other (my language), and the Significant Other. I will address three additional Others – the Unconscious Other, the Marginalized Other, and the Nonhuman Other – that I find in a broader and more recent literature. Although I group them into six main Others, the borders of these types are somewhat arbitrary, porous, and nondiscrete, as interaction and intersection exist among them. Two characteristics that distinguish one Other from another are whether the Other exists within or outside the Self and whether the Other is an individual or aggregate entity. The Unconscious Other and the Generalized Other both are constructed from symbolic material outside the individual but ultimately take up residence within the Self. The Meiotic Self is the self-divided; there may be multiple divisions but each Meiotic Self is usually presented as singly constituted. The Significant Other, an individual, and the Marginalized Other, often a status group or member of it, reside outside the Self but play supporting roles in relation to any particular Self, which may also be an individual or status group, such as men, Whites, and Americans. The Nonhuman Other may be individual, an aggregate of individuals, or the product of human behavior, all of which reside outside the Self.


Coles, R.L. (2008), "Others in the making of selves", Denzin, N.K. (Ed.) Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 30), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 197-226.



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