M. Butterfly

The Passage from the Orient to the Occident College

The establishment of imperialism can be condensed to the rift between the Self and the Other. One can only believe that he or she possesses the right to will the destiny of another by assuming that there is an essential devaluation of that human being, otherwise known as an Otherness. Likewise, this legitimization of tyranny through the use of essentialism is the basis for the oppression of many social categories: race, gender, class and their intersectionalities. This dichotomy proves to be very problematic because various discourses of knowledge, whether it be film, literature or academic writings are only able to provide a subjective viewpoint for one side of the divide. In most cases, race and gender both figure very prominently in determining which side performs as the Self and which is the Other. Women and racial minorities are widely Otherized because they are foreign and antithetical to the idea of a subjective self that a white male audience believes in. Post-colonial criticisms like David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly and Wilibrordus Rendra’s The Struggle of the Naga Tribe deconstruct and invert Western notions of an antithetical Eastern Other. In Hwang’s play, a French diplomat named Rene Gallimard carries out a...

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