Liminal Landscapes of Otherness: Postcolonial Interpretations of The Self and the Other in J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians


  • Sreya Mukherjee Ph.D. Scholar Department of Indian and World Literatures The English and Foreign Languages University Hyderabad, India



Postcolonialism, Self, Other, Subjectivity, Hybridity.


This paper presents a textual analysis of J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians within the framework of postcolonial theory with special emphasis on the dichotomy between the Self and the Other, which is embedded within the text. Frantz Fanon is credited with introducing the concept of Other in postcolonial studies. Fanon perceives the dualistic construct of Self and Other as an outcome of what he terms a ‘Manichean Delirium.’ This phenomenon engenders a profound schism in the entirety of human existence, delineating it into interconnected yet opposing dichotomies such as virtue-vice, dominator-subjugated, and Caucasian-African, wherein the presence of blackness serves to validate the identity of the white Self, simultaneously relegating the black subject to objectification. In a colonial context, the coloniser saw the colonised merely as his binary opposite. The coloniser saw himself as the subjective, conscious Self while refusing to see the Other even as human. The Other was divested of his/her humanity, was objectified, and rendered a beast by the Self. Waiting for the Barbarians engages in a profound exploration of themes surrounding power dynamics, the perpetuation of torture, and the construction of the Other, which is achieved by superimposing an arbitrary identity upon individuals who deviate from the framework of the subjective imperial Self. However, the relationship between the Self and the Other is not simply that of dominance and meek obedience, rather the relationship is always fraught with tension, resistance and even defiance. This paper seeks to discursively interpret the mutual tension between the Self and the Other, as well as the resistance mounted by the Other against the Self’s dominance that has been poignantly captured by Coetzee in Waiting for the Barbarians.


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How to Cite

Sreya Mukherjee. (2023). Liminal Landscapes of Otherness: Postcolonial Interpretations of The Self and the Other in J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians. Creative Saplings, 2(05), 64–75.