Some People Aren’t People on the Inside: Online Connectivity and Otherkin Subjectivities

Some People Aren’t People on the Inside: Online Connectivity and Otherkin Subjectivities

Margaret Shane (University of Alberta, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5206-4.ch016
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So-called alternative online niche communities are prone to ridicule, derision, and dismissal owing to the challenges they pose to prevailing onto-normativities, those ingrained modes of thought that dictate how we describe reality. Relying on the divergent approaches of classic SWOT analysis and post-structuralist philosophy and queer theory, this chapter explores how online connectivity shapes expressions of one niche community, the Otherkin. Otherkin are conceived as flows of desire, difference, and becoming rather than as a marginalized sub-culture occupying virtual space. As such, Otherkin are queering and destabilizing established norms in ways that call forth radically new ethics, aesthetics, ontologies, epistemologies, and social connections. This chapter relies upon Otherkin online texts and expressions to make the case that such destabilizations are essentially creative acts and that online connectivity affords Otherkin strengths and opportunities as well as revealing weaknesses and representing threats to their niche community.
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Reflections And Discussions

I have elsewhere encountered descriptions of the Otherkin as a subculture. For the present purpose, I reject the Latin prefix sub (under or inferior) and its hierarchical and judgmental connotations. Describing Otherkin as a flow of subjectivity better conveys its mode of expression. Flow also captures the Otherkin’s singular focus on the fluidity of their lived-experience of destabilizing onto-normativity. There exist many ways to confront the shock to thought represented by Otherkin. We can ridicule and deride Otherkin beliefs. We can dismiss their subjective experience as pathological or code these expressions as mere online detritus contributing nothing and therefore of no value to pedagogy or scholarship. Finally, we can show indifference. Reacting in this way would be a mistake. An analytical approach that fails to accept that Otherkin claims are in earnest also fails to seize upon the importance their online exchanges and community represent: their demand to pursue new ways of being in the world.

Community building through online connectivity is key to Otherkin experience. As Laycock (2012) writes, “Otherkin identities provide an effective source of meaning only because they are supported by a community.” (p. 66). Nevertheless, individual subjective experience is privileged as a personal journey. Although some might detect traits of egocentrism including a preoccupation with one’s subjective experience and internal state of being (Woodruff-Borden, Brothers, & Lister, 2001) in Otherkin utterances, there is so much more than psychological “isms” circulating here. Through new subjectivities, beliefs, modes of interaction, and pursuit of personal epiphanies and truths, the Otherkin embrace an expanded consciousness and awareness that re-enchants their ontologies (Wicker, 2005). We shall discover why openness to Otherkin awareness is important.

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