Affinity, Diaspora, Identity, Reunification, Return
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 18 Nov 2013
Reimagining Possibilities of Engaging with Place and Time
There is a characteristic shared by a variety of disparate understandings of belonging. As indicated by the title, it has to do with the natural process of individual experiential affinity or “resonance” with what are effectively abstractions or virtual entities. The process is fundamentally constrained and denatured by regulations governing such association — to the point of reducing it to the vaguest of sentiments and hopeless “might have beens”.
The clearest example is that of the affinity with which one may relate to a country of which one is not a national, where one may not have been born, and with which one has no apparent formal ties. This is an experience shared by many who may find they “feel at home” in such a place, even though they may have no formal right to live there — other than temporarily as a tourist, if at all. Even less tangible may be the relationship one feels to such a place through experience of its culture and people — without ever having travelled there. This can be described as an experience of resonance. Such “affinity” may also be felt in relation to other places.
Another variant is the relationship to a place from which one’s ancestors came, namely the sentiment evoked by “roots” — whether or not one feels any other relationship to the place or its culture, perhaps arising from some form of entitlement through the male or female bloodline. This is especially evident in some understandings of diaspora. It may take a different form in the case of a sense of bond with a country where one was born by chance (in passing), but with which no other formal bond exists — whether or not there is any legal consequence.
Many variants of such situations are now created by tourism, temporary work or education in distant countries, refugee status and forced resettlement, and the like. This subtle complexity of “bonds” is formally reduced to regulations regarding citizenship, birth certificates and tax obligations — by which identity is defined for administrative purposes. Some may have multiple passports and have the right to reside in many countries (temporarily or permanently), notably as the consequence of international treaties. Regulations may well ignore any particular bond associated with land which has belonged to one’s family over generations.
The question explored here is whether there are other ways of imagining fruitful association with countries, lands and “places”, however distant or virtual — or possibly divided in some way. Of particular interest is the possibility that this might be recognized through refining the pattern of formalities by which such associations are currently defined and restricted. Such an extension might be relevant to concerns regarding democratic deficit, whether nationally or with respect to a region (as in the case of Europe) — typically framed in terms of public relations, divorced from the subtlety of imaginative associations. It could also be relevant to preoccupation with how to elicit concern for the globe as a whole — as a responsible citizen of the world.
The argument suggests a subtle psychosocial dynamic between affinity, diaspora, identity, reunification and return.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Nov 2013.
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