Mar 252013
Stereotypes: What Americans Think of Eastern Europeans

Kay Deaux’s To Be an Immigrant (review) devotes considerable ink on stereotypes that Americans hold about immigrants. Some immigrant groups have it worse than others, e.g. Haitians or Mexicans vs. white Europeans, but every immigrant regardless of their country of origin, nationality, or race experiences some form of stereotyping. Coping with with such simplified perceptions affects the immigration experience. To confirm and expand my idea about natural-born Americans’ perceptions of Eastern Europeans, a more familiar category for the locals than Central Europeans, I posed this question on Facebook: Eastern Europeans Are… As is […] Continue reading >

Mar 212013

Exiles see two or more places at the same time not just because they’re addicted to a lost past. There is a very real, active component to seeing in this particularly heightened retrospective manner: an exile is continuously prospecting for a future home—forever looking at an alien land as land that could conceivably become his. Except that he does not stop shopping for a home once he’s acquired one or once he’s finally divested himself of exile. He goes on prospecting, partly because he cannot have the home he […] Continue reading >

Mar 172013
Through Other Lenses: American Robotnik Readings for March 2013

From the RSS Feed “De Nimes: The Long Journey of Blue Jeans” by Jenni Avins, Vice, 3/11/2013 – A history of one of America’s most potent symbols. “We Aren’t the World” by Ethan Watters, Pacific Standard, February 25, 2013 – Americans are outliers in more ways than you imagine. “The Decline of Marriage and the Rise of Unwed Mothers: An Economic Mystery” by Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, 3/18/2013 The Book Stack Andre Aciman, Letters of Transit: Reflections on Exile, Identity, Language and Loss, New York: The New Press, 2000 […] Continue reading >

Mar 132013

Eventually, of course, one does stop being an exile. But even a “reformed” exile will continue to practice the one thing exiles do almost as a matter of instinct: compulsive retrospection. With their memories perpetually on overload, exiles see double, feel double, are double. When exiles see one place they’re also seeing—or looking for—another behind it. Everything bears two faces, everything is shifty because everything is mobile, the point being that exile, like love, is not just a condition of pain, it’s a condition of deceit. Or put it […] Continue reading >

Mar 072013
To Be an Immigrant

American Robotnik tackles the experience of immigration in a spontaneous, subjective fashion. More systematic treatments of the issue help organize my thinking. In her book To Be an Immigrant Kay Deaux outlines immigrant experience from the perspective of social psychology. Assuming that “immigration is both a dynamic and a symbolic process rather than a discrete event,” Deaux proposes a multi-level framework for analysis: Macro: political, demographic, and social factors that define the climate of immigration in a society, including policies, legislation, and institutions, as well as social representations (shared […] Continue reading >

Mar 032013

An accent is a tell-tale scar left by the unfinished struggle to acquire a new language. But it is much more. It is an author’s way of compromising with a world that is not his world and for which he was not and, in a strange sense, will never be prepared, torn as he’ll always remain between a new, thoroughly functional here-and-now and an old, competing altogether-out-there that continues to exert a vestigial but enduring pull. An accent marks the lag between two cultures, two languages, the space where […] Continue reading >

Mar 012013
Central European Events in Portland, Oregon, in March 2013

Don’t believe everything you hear about March being dominated by St. Patrick’s Day. These Central/Eastern European events in March will delight just as well, if not better, even sans green beer and whiskey. All information comes from event websites or organizers. The list will be updated, if needed. Update: 3/21/2013 Eclectic: March Fourth Marching Band, 3/3 and 3/4 Sunday, March 3 at 4:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.; Monday March 4, 9:00 p.m. Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside, Portland March 3 all ages, March 4 only 21 and over 3/3 […] Continue reading >

Feb 132013
Do What's Necessary, Seek to Make Choices

The bus ride last Saturday night to the Kultur Shock concert enlightened me on the difference between actions that you do out of necessity and those that you do by choice. Sticking with the bus analogy. On my commute to and from work, most people appear to be there by choice. They have jobs or school to go to, and they could drive but choose not to. Reasons differ: some refuse to pay exorbitant parking fees downtown, others believe in public transportation, others still—you can count me here—save a […] Continue reading >

Feb 092013
Through Other Lenses: American Robotnik Readings for January & February 2013

From the RSS Feed “Are Immigrants Taking Your Job? A Primer,” by Catherine Rampell, New York Times/Economix, February 5, 2013 – Your being here as an immigrant raises the wages of native-born workers, albeit only very slightly… & “No, More Immigration Won’t Make You Poorer (Unless You’re an Immigrant),” by Jordan Weissman, The Atlantic, January 30, 2013 – …but it lowers the wages of your fellow immigrants who preceded you. & “The Easy Problem,” by David Brooks New York Times, January 31, 2013 – And other benefits. “For Amusement […] Continue reading >

Feb 072013
If You Plant a Man in America

If you exile a [Slovak] and plant him in America, he will be unhappy; he will suffer because people can be happy, can function freely, only among those who understand them. To be lonely is to be among men who do not know what you mean. Exile, solitude, is to find yourself among people whose words, gestures, handwriting are alien to your own, whose behaviour, reactions, feelings, instinctive responses, and thoughts and pleasures and pains, are too remote from yours, whose education and outlook, the tone and quality of […] Continue reading >

Feb 012013
Central European Events in Portland, Oregon, in February 2013

A nice plethora of Central European events this month. All information comes from event websites or organizers. Updated 2/6/2013. The Balkans: Krebsic Orkestar, 2/1 Friday, February 1, 8:00 p.m. doors and DJ, 9:00 p.m. concert Mississippi Pizza,  3552 N Mississippi Ave., Portland 1 for $7, 2 for $10; 21+ only The 14-piece gypsy brass band the Krebsic Orkestar teams up with DJ E3 for a night of music, dancing, pizza, and beer! Ajde!!! Czech Republic: Jan Švankmajer, Conspirator of Pleasure, 2/1-2/4 Various times from 2/1 to 2/4 – see […] Continue reading >

Jan 192013
In Praise of Weak Ties

When you leave your country you leave behind a crucial element of your life as a human being: your social networks.* You put significant physical distance between yourself and the 150 or so people in your circle with whom, according to the Dunbar number, you have a meaningful relationship. Whether the tie between you and the individuals in your network is altered, weakened, or severed altogether depends on its strength: whereas strong ties remain strong, weak ties may disintegrate. To succeed in your integration into a new country you […] Continue reading >

Jan 132013
One Foot in Each Culture

A common metaphor for an immigrant is that of a plant, uprooted from his country of origin and replanted in another land. Anchored in the place you are born, you become rooted in it. The longer you’re there, the deeper the roots. When you leave your country, you yank yourself out of the land. To begin a new life in a new country, you put the old roots down in the new soil but you must also start new roots to survive. The metaphor finds expression in a synonym […] Continue reading >

Jan 092013
Central European Events in Portland, Oregon, in January 2013

With a bit of a delay but by popular demand, here’s a list of upcoming Central European events this month and February 1. All information comes from event websites or organizers. Bulgaria: Dancing with the Bulgarians, 1/10 & 1/24 Thursday, January 10 and 24, 7:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m. Podkrepa Hall, 2116 North Killingsworth St, Portland Free [American Robotnik note: bring something to share for the potluck] Come and join us for a fun night of dancing and learning.