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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-ZA012-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved December 02, 2023, from

Article Summary

Traditional definitions of marginal persons include those who live in two worlds, but do not feel well integrated into either and those who live in societies which are in the process of being assimilated and incorporated into an emerging global society. The influence of Anglo-American and European cultures has brought this situation into existence. A broader, more contemporary understanding of marginality is the condition of feeling marginal in relation to various concepts of the centre. This state produces a stigmatized identity, which either aspires to inclusion or assimilation into the centre, or demands recognition of and respect for a separate but equal existence. This condition of marginality can be experienced in varying degrees by many kinds of people.

Often gender, sexual preference, age, ethnicity, geography and religion are factors which can influence perceptions of marginality. Those who perceive themselves, or who are perceived by others to be marginal are often female, dark-skinned, very young or elderly, poor, disabled, nonheterosexual, displaced, exiled, immigrant, rural, indigenous, ‘foreign’, outcast, persecuted, or otherwise ‘different’ from those who occupy positions of privilege in the centre, or the metropolis. Critics of the term ‘marginality’ believe it has become overused to the point of losing descriptive precision because, they argue, almost everyone has experienced some form of marginality. In philosophy, however, the phenomenon of feeling, or being, perceived as peripheral, or on the margin, has generated critical perspectives which have enlightened discourse on social integration and stratification; personal suffering and economic, political, and cultural inequality. In addition, analyses of marginality have called into question notions of the ‘universal’ and the ‘objective’ set forth by many Western philosophers.

Citing this article:
Oliver, Amy A.. Marginality, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-ZA012-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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