Jun 032013
 

In a way, we are nothing more—or less—than an encoded memory of our heritage. It is because these things go so deep, because they are not only passed on to us but are us, that one’s original home is a potent structure and force and that being uprooted from it is so painful. Real dislocation, the loss of all familiar external and internal parameters, is not glamorous, and it is not cool. It is a matter not of willful psychic positioning but of an upheaval in the deep material […] Continue reading >

May 292013
 

[O]ne certain outcome of exile is the creation of a bipolar personal world. Spatially, the world becomes riven into two parts, divided by an uncrossable barrier. Temporally, the past is all of a sudden on one side of a divide, the present on the other. —Eva Hoffman in “The New Nomads”, in: Letters of Transit: Reflections on Exile, Identity, Language and Loss, Andre Aciman, ed.

May 172013
 

Their home now was a country in which they had not been born. Their place in society they had established themselves through the hardships of crossing and settlement. The process had changed them, had altered the most intimate aspect of their lives. Every effort to cling to inherited ways of acting and thinking had led into a subtle adjustment by which those ways were given a new American form. No longer Europeans, could the immigrants then say that they belonged in America? —Oscar Handlin in The Uprooted: The Epic […] Continue reading >

May 152013
 

We are come to rest and push our roots more deeply by the year. But we cannot push away the heritage of having been once all strangers in the land; we cannot forget the experience of having been all rootless, adrift. Building our own nests now in our tiredness of the transient, we will not deny our past as a people in motion and will find still a place in our lives for the values of flight. In our flight, unattached, we discovered what it was to be an […] Continue reading >

May 032013
 

The old folk knew then they would not come to belong, not through their own experience nor through their offspring. The only adjustment they had been able to make to life in the United States had been one that involved the separateness of their group, one that increased their awareness of the differences between themselves and the rest of the society. In that adjustment they had always suffered from the consciousness they were strangers. The demand that they assimilate, that they surrender their separateness, condemned them always to be […] Continue reading >

Apr 232013
 

I had come here doing what all exiles do on impulse, which is to look for their homeland abroad, to bridge the things here to things there, to rewrite the present so as not to write off the past. I wanted to rescue things everywhere, as though by restoring them here I might restore them elsewhere as well. I wanted everything to remain the same. Because this too is typical of people ho have lost everything, including their roots or their ability to grow new ones. It is precisely […] Continue reading >

Apr 152013
 

[W]anderers to the wide world often yearn toward the far direction whence they have come. Why even the birds who fly away from their native places still hasten to go back. Can a man feel really happy condemned to live away from where he was born? Though by leaving he has cut himself off and knows he never will return, yet he hopes, by reaching backward, still to belong in the homeland. —Oscar Handlin in The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations That Made the American People

Apr 132013
 
Stereotypes: How to Combat Negative Perceptions

Rather than getting into where stereotypes come from* or how stereotyping operates, let me tackle the problem of dealing with negative stereotypes, since positive stereotypes are much less detrimental to optimal immigration experience. In addition, rather than just coping, which implies an internal, psychological process, let me examine how to combat negative stereotypes. Three basic strategies come to mind. Anti-stereotyping strategy #1: Ignore Ducks spread a waxy coating on their feathers during preening that ensures their underlayer remains dry at all times. Likewise, you the immigrant can build a […] Continue reading >

Apr 012013
 
Central European Events in Portland, Oregon, in April 2013

When it comes to Central/Eastern European events here in Portland, Oregon, April’s looking a bit slow. I will update the list as I discover new events. Updated 4/19/2013 Czech/Slovak Republics: Hospoda, 4/2 Tuesday, April 2, 6:00 p.m.–close McTarnahans Taproom, 2730 NW 31st, Portland Free The monthly gathering of Portland’s Czech and Slovak community. Guests welcome. The Balkans: Kafana Klub, 4/2 Tuesday, April 2, 7:00 p.m. dance lesson, 8:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m. live music Al Forno Ferruzza, 2738 NE Alberta St., Portland, Oregon $3-$5 cover Join us for the unbeatable combination of […] Continue reading >

Mar 272013
 

[T]he change was not confined to economic matters. The whole American universe was different. Strangers, the immigrants could not locate themselves; they had lost the polestar that gave them their bearings. They would not regain an awareness of direction until they could visualize themselves in their new context, see a picture of the world as it appeared from this perspective. At home their eyes had taken in the whole of life, had brought to their perceptions a clearly defined view of the universe. Here the frame narrowed down, seemed […] Continue reading >

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 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 >