Encountering the Other: Stereotypes and Identities


A multi-disciplinary seminar organized by the University of Malta Junior College Professional Development Committee

Friday, 30 May 2014, 9.00 – 12.30, Dar l-Ewropa, St. Paul’s Street, Valletta

This is where Immanuel Mifsud's "Laqgħa ma' Mara Morbi" first appeared.
This is where Immanuel Mifsud’s “Laqgħa ma’ Mara Morbi” first appeared.

This seminar aims at making sense of the ‘other’, the socially constructed ‘outsider’ that is classified as being different to mainstream society. Stereotypes, as a form of unjustified preconceptions, often lead to devaluing one’s social identity by interpreting actions in terms of one’s label. The simplistic generalisation about a group of individuals, either because of their different abilities, their class of origin or sexual orientation amongst others, can often result in this group being treated as the ‘other’. This unfair treatment of individuals results in prejudice and in some cases even to social exclusion.

How does social exclusion manifest itself in Maltese society and schools? What are the repercussions? How can we as an education community work towards reducing such inequalities?

© riccardoflask@gmail.com
© riccardoflask@gmail.com


9.00  –    9.10     REGISTRATION

SESSION 1   Chaired by Dr. Valerie Visanich

9.10  –    9.30     L-Alterità Problematika tan-Narrattiva Kożmopolitana

Dr. Adrian Grima

9.30  –   9.50      Disability, Stereotypes and Identities: shame vs. pride

Ms. Amy Zahra

9.50 – 10.10      Sexual orientation

Ms. Ruth Baldacchino

10.10 -10.40     COFFEE BREAK

SESSION 2       Chaired by Ms.Sharon Role’

10.40 – 11.00   Visual Arts and Stereotypes

Dr. Louis Lagana

11.00 – 11.20   Intelligence testing and the construct of the other

Mr. Nicholas Zarb

11.20 – 11.40   The ‘other’ within the higher and further education paradgm

Ms. Liliana Maric

11.40 -12.30     DISCUSSION

Chaired by Dr. Mario Cassar

Special thanks to Josephine Mallia (chair), Nicholas Zarb, Dr Mario Cassar, Sharon Role’, and Dr Valerie Visanich, members of the organising committee.

Dr Mario Cassar
Dr Mario Cassar

Clare Azzopardi's first collection of stories
Clare Azzopardi’s first collection of stories

This is the first paragraph of my presentation, followed by my conclusion. The paper focuses on three contemporary Maltese short stories: Immanuel Mifsud’s “Laqgħa ma’ Mara Morbi” (2003), Clare Azzopardi’s “/no adjective describe story/” (2004) and “Pierre J. Mejlak’s “Nixtieq Ngħajjat lil Samirah” (2009).

The encounter between Maltese and non-Maltese characters in three short stories by leading contemporary Maltese writers is characterized by the virtual “absence” of the narrated “other.” These stories were written into an ethnocentric narrative tradition that has been largely unable, even after the Maltese Islands gained Independence from Great Britain in 1964, to narrate from the perspective of a non-Maltese other, whether European or non-European. Unlike most of their predecessors who were mainly concerned with issues related to the national imaginary, Clare Azzopardi, Pierre J. Mejlak and Immanuel Mifsud are among a new breed of 21st century writers who increasingly see themselves as (Maltese) citizens of the world, but they continue to write from a point of view that is psychologically if not physically bound to the Maltese Islands.

Pierre J. Mejlak's second collection of stories (2011)
Pierre J. Mejlak’s second collection of stories (2011)

Catherine Belsey believes that historicism opens up the possibility of perceiving a relationship between a text and its background that might include difference, in the sense that Rachel’s friendship with Adiam or the love relationship between the young Maltese man and Samirah in Mejlak’s story may reflect the wishes of the writers who created them rather than a cultural and historical context. “Fiction offers a space where anything can happen,” and this is perhaps what takes place in Mejlak’s story of a rather uncommon (albeit not impossible) relationship which perhaps reflects more the kind of intercultural dialogue that the author would like to see in society.

These stories of 21st century literature do not point to a hybridisation of Maltese society, certainly not to a community that is engaging with a hybridisation that acknowledges that communities are in a constant state of flux, divided and contested from within. It is only individuals who can afford to challenge the borders between the various ethnic groups but the fictional community in these stories seems reluctant.



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