Alterity or, if you prefer, otherness has become a hot topic today. The financial crisis of a decade ago made inequality grow to intolerable limits within Western societies, which believed themselves safe from such a contingency. With the emergence of internal inequality, it has become impossible to ignore the existence of an even more flagrant one: which divides globally favored societies from those that are increasingly sinking into generalized poverty. And with it the intolerance has grown. The economic gap, internal and external, has led today to a political, social and racial gap. The national-populist xenophobic leaders have come, and it seems that they have come to stay: Donald Trump in the United States, Neil Farage in the United Kingdom, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil... Leaders who won elections taking advantage of the frustration and discontent of the people; manipulating public opinion from social networks; pronouncing openly sexist, xenophobic, racist and homophobic discourses; proposing the closing of borders, economic protectionism, exacerbated nationalism, fear and contempt for foreigners.
We live, then, in societies that have lost respect for the Other, for minorities whose sexual orientation, religious beliefs or ethnic characteristics are different. That is why it is necessary to dwell on the concept of otherness. Because, moreover, as taught by Plato, one cannot conceive or define the Self except in relation to the Other, to the multiplicity of others. Because alterity has nothing essential, and the Other is only another in relation to the Self and its faces are multiple according to the contexts. Thus, to a large extent, the Self constructs that Other while placing it in the periphery, in a position of inferiority.
As if this were not enough, alterity exists even within the psyche of human beings. The discovery of the unconscious by Sigmund Freud at the end of the 19th century made it impossible for us to ignore that what the poet formulated (“Je est un autre”) was much more than a purely poetic formulation. The unconscious, that “censored chapter”, that structure hidden under the appearance of a lucid and conscious disposition of oneself, is responsible for multiple formations that emerge at different moments of human life in the form of neurosis (obsessive or hysterical) or psychosis. Because the skin is not always the border between the “I” and the Other, there is another inner being that inhabits us. As for the poet (Rimbaud), for the philosopher (Lévinas) the I is the sum of all the encounters with the Other. It should not surprise us, therefore, that so many narrations have made accounts, in a thousand different ways, with these problems.
The XVIII International Congress of the Asociación Española de Semiótica, II Iberian Congress of Semiotics, and IX International Congress of the Department of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising of the University of the Basque Country UPV / EHU proposes a reflection on what semiotics has to say about otherness in general. We are interested, then, both in the alterity in the natural world, as Greimas would say, and in its multiplicity of representations. And both in social alterity, that is to say, the one that has to do with us and our fellowmen, and in inner alterity.
So, we invite you to propose all kinds of contributions that analyze the concept of otherness from all possible angles: social alterity, interior alterity, and the representation of both in literary, visual, audio or audiovisual media narratives.