Encountering Alterity: Geographic and Semantic Movements

Alex Gillespie, Irini Kadianaki and Ria O'Sullivan-Lago

in The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195396430
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Encountering Alterity: Geographic and Semantic Movements


This chapter analyzes the semantic consequences of crossing national borders. When crossing borders, identities change, and alterity is encountered. We ask: what are the semantic structures, or meanings, that enable alterity to be either embraced or resisted? We start by distinguishing between movements in geographic space and semantic movements of meaning. Our aim is to link geographic movements to semantic movements, but not in a linear way. The semantic consequences of geographical movement can be diverse and reverberate for many years. We draw upon empirical examples from studies of immigration in Greece and Ireland to show how alterity is resisted, how representations of nationality and belonging are used to stabilize identities, and how feelings of being stigmatized can be deflected without leading to reciprocal denigration. We speculate about the potential role of geographic movement in providing people with externality over their own experiences, as it enables them to step out of themselves and see themselves from the perspective of others. The chapter concludes with suggestions for future research.

Keywords: immigration; dialogism; identity; semantic barriers; movement

Article.  11720 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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