Can There Be a Beauty Without a Beast? On Re-Writing Predominant Constructions of Selfhood

Hiba Alhomoud Ph.D. Student in Social and Political Thought at York University


The present paper explores the relationship between ‘self’ and ‘other’ through the dialectic of ‘beauty’ and ‘beast’. Whether in the realm of academia or politics, there is a tendency to default to conceptualizing ‘self’ and ‘other’ as mutually constitutive yet oppositional categories: the self comes to be constructed as the beauty against which the beastly other is construed. Thus, the main purpose of the present paper is to challenge the dichotomous, totalizing nature in which we often approach the relationship of self and other as ‘self vs. other’ and ‘us vs. them’. Specifically, the paper attempts to hone in on the root of such a construction—that is, what foundational concepts constitute the framework(s) responsible for understanding self and other in this way. In this regard, I use the works of Sara Ahmed, Maria Lugones and Seyla Benhabib – spanning the interdisciplinary realms of philosophy, politics and feminism – in order to locate the possibility of an alternative construction of self and other. In so doing, I ask what kind of conceptualization of the relationship between self and other would be more adequate with respect to fulfilling the goal of an ethical relationality. I conclude with a note on how to reconsider not simply what stories one writes about the self, but the ways in which one approaches the act of writing in the first place—as an act that may surprise, unravel, and inevitably constitute the self.