Jamaica Kincaid and ‘The Other’ Post #9


A big portion of Kincaid’s “The Ugly Tourist” is building this perspective of ‘the other,’ aka a comparison of self versus an unknown.  Why is this article so compelling? What is it about her writing style that keeps us in suspense until the very last word, all because of a subject as seemingly innocent as tourism? The answer, in my opinion, is the way in which she constructs this notion of ‘the other.’  First, she spends about half the article  making us reflect on who we are.  She takes us on a journey of self-awareness and insecurity to finally discover what images we associate with our identity as it relates to other people:

“From day to day, as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and live, dismayed, puzzled (a cliche, but only a cliche can explain you) at how alone you feel in this crowd, how awful it is to go unnoticed…”

In this passage, which rants on for many more lines, (all the same sentence) she shows us a sense of ourselves as individuals detached from our peers.  Specifically, I believe she’s dealing with Americans here, (or at least first world citizens) since she points out this loneliness that derives from being immersed in a population too busy to really care about all these strangers that live around us.  In this case, the other, or stranger, is our next door neighbor who doesn’t notice us. 

Later in the article, though, she introduces our tourist identity next to a native of somewhere else–where each is definitely noticed by the other.  In this case, the stranger is someone who DOES notice us, but doesn’t even like us because “they envy [our] ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for [ourselves].”

In short, the compelling factor of Kincaid’s article is her subliminal way of answering our longing desire to relate to and find our rightful and purposeful place amongst other humans.  


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