This idea of “foreignness”

Side note: Although it is odd to put forth an actual blog post for my first one vs. “so I’ve succumbed to blogging” etc., it really is the odd thoughts that run through my mind (such as the one below) that instigated my interest to make a blog. After all, where would these thoughts end up otherwise? 🙂 

This idea of “foreignness”

I was most intrigued when I read a recent article on “foreignness” in the Economist. After returning home from Washington, DC, a city deemed to be international, transient, and the political centre of the world, in conjunction with my new course on global cities, I found myself a direct subject which the article addressed. Since I left home to attend university and started travelling a couple years ago, I found myself questioning what and where home was. It no longer felt like the city where I was born and grew up in nor was it in the transient space of my university campus. The further I ranged from my city of origin, the more confused I got. I suppose this also has something to do with my multifaceted identity; being both Canadian and Chinese, I draw upon both to formulate who I am. When I was in Asia, I was Chinese; when I was in DC, I was Canadian. It is interesting to see which of these two faces are emphasized pending on where I am. As my Canadian friend in DC said, we were like nationalists in Washington, DC from promoting the concept of a “touque” to the uninformed Americans to playing along with the Canadian stereotypes (eg. pet beaver). Come summer, I will be travelling to Europe. In my field of political science/international relations, students are encouraged to travel the world to gain “experience” abroad. After being engrossed in my global cities course, it makes me wonder if we really a) need to go abroad for the global experience when these global cities encompass many different cultures and life styles which have been “deterritorialized” and “reterritorialized” in that city, and b) whether going abroad to global cities really is an abroad experience if they have all the same components, albeit to varying degrees.

Even so, with the mobility of information and people, what is the identity of the various places you visit? Think of the heightened xenophobia in Europe that has arguably induced the UK to implement stricter immigration laws and France to take the stance against Turkey’s accession to the EU. Yet regional supranational organizations such as the EU facilitates to mixing of cultures and values through standardization of particular policies (with the scope of such standardization growing with the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty) and freedom of movement of EU citizens.

As stated in the Economist articles, many philosophers took the stance of man and home, that leaving “home” is unnatural, yet over 90% of people from the Global North now live in a country which is not their place of birth. With the increased eased of transportation, does the home philosophy become no longer applicable? Or is it do the international cities most mobile workers live in cater enough to the small amount of “home” or cultural familiarity to make moving to new places a comfortable way of life?

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2 thoughts on “This idea of “foreignness”

  1. your last paragraph reminds me of George Clooney’s lastest movie “Up In The Air”. he calls “home” airplanes and hotels lol. good movie. and yes, i can totally relate to feeling foreign everywhere now.

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