Imagined Geographies Of The Celtic Fringe And The Cultural Construction Of The Other In Contemporary America

In his essay “Imagined Geographies Of The Celtic Fringe And The Cultural Construction Of The Other [1],” Keith D. Lilley talks about how the Anglo-Normans colonized the Welsh and Irish by denying their urban culture because it did not square with their own in the Middle Ages, and that the marginalization of the supposed Celtic fringe goes back almost a thousand years.  The biggest problem I saw with the essay was that the author failed to realize that the process still goes on and that he and others like him are part of the problem and not part of the solution.  And, because I have a personal stake in this sort of matter, it is worthwhile to discuss my own experience with the problem of urban leftists and the way that they seek to marginalize and otherize people in the contemporary American world as it relates to Celtic culture.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, I lived in Los Angeles and was very familiar with the otherizing process that happens to people who come from the Southeast (even though I had been otherized in the Southeast growing up because I had and still have a bit of a Pittsburgh accent).  I remember having a political argument with a leftist whose response to me was to send a music video link to “Dueling Banjos” from the film Deliverance, a classic example of leftist tropes that seek to marginalize people because of a supposed cultural background that did not happen to match my own background as a border Northerner who happens to have grown up in the rural South.  This is not an uncommon experience.  It is easy for people to view those who live in rural areas as being particularly low-information individuals whose opinions and thoughts and ways of life do not matter and who can be safely marginalized by those who know more and live in cities, at least cities whose urban culture they would recognize and respect.  In that sense, contemporary leftists are no better than the arrogant Anglo-Normans when it comes to the otherizing tendencies they have in promoting those who they wish to colonize and marginalize as being rural and lacking an understanding of urban culture.

What is it that makes people hypocrites so easily?  It is easy to look down on medieval Anglo-Normans for being arrogant when it comes to dismissing the cultural achievements and the urban establishments of the Welsh or Irish in the Middle Ages.  But what happens when you simultaneously look down on the Anglo-Normans but then do the same thing to the descendants of Celts who happen to live in West Virginia or Arkansas or other parts of the supposedly “rural” South, simply because their cities may not vote the way that the cities these people respect do, and so they are invisible in the eyes of those who praise a leftist urban culture and dismiss cities that are more conservative politically speaking.  It seems arrogant when it is done by Anglo Normans who are in the past and not able to defend themselves and who appear so different from us and from the way we think, but all too easy to do when we ourselves happen to be the people doing the judging and wish to otherize and marginalize people who are different from us and who would think and feel and vote differently than we do or would.

And that ought to make us more empathetic to people who do the marginalizing.  It is easy for us to want to root for the underdog and fail to recognize that we too seek to marginalize and silence and colonize people just as other historical oppressors do and have.  It is when we can realize that we are potentially the sort of oppressive people that we would hate that we can rise above merely the trendy and fashionable support of underdog causes because it reflects well on us and move to the understanding that we, just like every other people in history, is a lot more morally complex than we might like to admit, and that we too are not always on the sides of the angels, but sometimes are the sort of wicked monsters who we would curse if someone else was doing it from another group than our own.  We can always justify ourselves, but it is when we stop trying to justify and just openly admit the truth that we can come to a real understanding that all too often we may best be compared not with the underdogs of history whose causes we may champion, but with the bullies and tyrants of history who like us seek power to oppress and dominate our enemies and who are hated by the descendants of those whom they have wickedly oppressed.

[1] The first essay of a collection, Celtic Geographies, edited by David C. Harvey, Rhys Jones, Neil McInroy, & Christine Milligan, first published in 2002.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Imagined Geographies Of The Celtic Fringe And The Cultural Construction Of The Other In Contemporary America

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Celtic Geographies | Edge Induced Cohesion

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