Volume 12, 2020
On Anonymity and Appresentation
Perceiving the Stranger in Everyday Life
In his famous work on the stranger, Alfred Schutz focuses on the interpretative discrepancies between in-groups and out-groups from the perspective of a stranger approaching a new group. In doing so, Schutz emphasizes that strangers can overcome their strangeness within a social group by adapting to the prevalent cultural patterns. Shifting the perspective from the stranger to the in-group this essay aims to argue that the experience of the Other’s strangeness due to a discrepancy of interpretative schemes is only one dimension of how the stranger is perceived in everyday life. A second dimension can be derived from Schutz’ work on appresentation. This essay will follow four analytical steps. First, this essay summarizes the Schutzian approach on perceiving the Other as a taken-for-granted part of everyday life within an assumed intersubjective understanding based on an assumed reciprocity of perspectives. Referring to Eberle’s description of an irreciprocity of perspectives, the second section analyzes the Schutzian stranger based on an intersubjective understanding. The third section then focuses on the appresentational processes of perceiving the stranger in everyday life. By using Goffman’s distinction between virtual and actual social identity, the interplay of categorizing and experiencing the Other in everyday life can be described. Finally, considering the question of how it comes that people can find themselves strangers in their own society, this paper closes by merging the argumentation with a description of the Schutzian perspective on the processes of stigmatization.