The first part of this paper makes five points: First, the problem of Otherness is different and differently constructed in modern differentiated societies. Therefore, approaches to Otherness based on traditional notions of difference and boundary between societies and systems of shared belief will not suffice; Second, because solidarity can no longer be maintained through boundaries between ingroup and outgroup, social cohesion has to take a different form; Third, to the extent that Otherness is not a condition of demographic, or belief based, exclusion in modern societies, but rather something that happens to people otherwise available to one another in interaction, othering is a process that occurs over the course of interaction, turn by turn, not a set of beliefs or a state of mind; Fourth, othering may be supported by accounts and narratives, and these may exist before the fact – or be articulated after the fact. But, over the course of an ongoing interaction, beliefs and narratives do not explain what goes wrong with practices; Fifth, practices require reciprocity and trust. Therefore, practices require a more stringent form of morality – not a less stringent form – and more social cohesion – not less – than traditional society. The second part of the paper illustrates these five points with an extended analysis of a cross-race interaction in which accounts are invoked, reciprocity breaks down, and participants are rendered as Accountable Others.
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