May 072013

The life of the immigrant was that of a man diverted by unexpected pressures away from the established channels of his existence. Separated, he was never capable of acting with the assurance of habit; always in motion, he could never rely upon roots to hold him up. Instead he had ever to toil painfully from crisis to crisis, as an individual alone, make his way past the discontinuous obstacles of a strange world. But America was the land of separated men. Its development in the eighteenth century and the […] 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 >

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 >

Dec 132012
A Heroic Image

Exile is morally suspect because it breaks one’s solidarity with a group, i.e. it sets apart an individual who ceases to share the experience of colleagues left behind. His moral torment reflects his attachment to a heroic image of himself and he must, step by step, come to the painful conclusion that to do a morally valid work and to preserve an untarnished image of himself is rarely possible. —Czeslaw Milosz in “To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays”

Aug 252012
Made of Fragments

We slip between definitions with such acrobatic ease that straight narrative becomes impossible. I cannot conceive of my story as one of simple progress, or simple woe. Any confidently thrusting story line would be a sentimentality, an excess, an exaggeration, an untruth. Perhaps it is my intolerance of those, my cherishing of uncertainty as the only truth that is, after all, the best measure of my assimilation; perhaps it is in my misfittings that I fit. Perhaps a successful immigrant is an exaggerated version of the native. From now […] Continue reading >

Jul 092012
Immigration and Identity: Identity Transformation Following Immigration, Part 2

This post completes the overview of Salman Akthtar’s “Immigration and Identity: Turmoil, Treatment, and Transformation.” Part 1 tackled factors affecting the immigration experience; Part 2 dealt with the first two dimensions of identity transformation following immigration.  From Yesterday or Tomorrow to Today The pain of separation from home results in an idealization of your pre-immigration past, centering more on memories of places than of people. Immigration disrupts the connectedness of time while “the past continues to exert time dominance.” Like an emotionally deprived child with but one toy, the immigrant clings […] Continue reading >

Jul 032012
Immigration and Identity: Identity Transformation Following Immigration, Part 1

According to Salman Akhtar, writing in “Immigration and Identity: Turmoil, Treatment, and Transformation,” anxiety resulting from the culture shock and mourning over the losses inherent in immigration “cause a serious shake-up of the individual’s identity. A state of psychic flux ensues and a growing sensation of discontinuity of identity emerges.” The resulting identity change has four dimensions: Drives and affects: from love or hate to ambivalence Interpersonal and psychic space: from near or far to optimal distance Temporality: from yesterday or tomorrow to today Social affiliations and mutuality: from yours or […] Continue reading >

Jun 252012
Immigration and Identity: Factors Affecting the Immigration Experience

Salman Akhtar’s “Immigration and Identity: Turmoil, Treatment, and Transformation” has shed a lot of light for me on the psychological experience of immigration. The book takes a psychoanalytical look at the effects of immigration on individual identity. The most useful parts deal with factors and process of identity transformation. Part 1 of this overview will tackle the “psychosocial variables associated with immigration.” Immigration from one country to another is a complex psychosocial process with significant and lasting effects on an individual’s identity. Leaving one’s country involves profound losses. However, alongside […] Continue reading >

Jun 152012
Home in Two Places: An Interview with Olinka Broadfoot

I discovered the Prague-born artist and Portland, Oregon, resident Olinka Broadfoot about two years ago at a new gallery in SE Portland. Being an artistically-inclined nerd, I loved her circuit board series. Then two weeks ago, that now-defunct gallery’s owner Kelley Roy, who now runs ADX, told me Olinka’s new studio is in the Ford Building, where I was heading for the First Friday Open House. I missed Olinka at the studio but left behind my American Robotnik business card, and we arranged a conversation last week. We chatted in English. American […] Continue reading >

Mar 232012
Particles in a Kaleidoscope

In a certain sense I can consider myself a typical Eastern European. It seems to be true that his differentia specifica can be boiled down to a lack of form—both inner and outer. His good qualities—intellectual avidity, fervor in discussion, a sense of irony, freshness of feeling, spacial (or geographical) fantasy—derive from a basic weakness: he always remains an adolescent, governed by a sudden ebb or flow of inner chaos. Form is achieved in stable societies. My own case is enough to verify how much of an effort it […] Continue reading >

Feb 092012
You Must Go and Be Yourself: An Interview With Alina Simone

When I read "You Must Go and Win," I knew I not only had to review it on account of its subject matter’s relevance to American Robotnik, but also try to interview the author Alina Simone. We talked yesterday via Gmail Chat about Russia and Russianness, about music and writing, and about doing your own thing. The first question was hers, about my experience reading her memoir: "Are you scarred?" American Robotnik: In your New York Times T Style interview, you talk about growing up as an American kid and, later, […] Continue reading >

Oct 222011
My New Self in a New World

Kultur Shock, “House of Labor”, on Ministry of Kultur (2011) [audio:|titles=Kultur Shock – House Of Labor, 2011] My lies to myself Lies to my people Lies from my past, present, and future Made me sick to my stomach Made me hide my pride Made me hide my life Forget my kultur I wanted to find My new self in a new world But I got so lost What the fuck did I do—Lies!

Oct 012011

They say the United States is a place where you can be who you want to be: if no one knows you when you get here, you can be anyone you choose. As a newcomer, you are free to take the opportunity to reinvent yourself. If you simply want to continue being who you were before you arrived, congratulations! But if all your life in the “old country” you felt compelled, even forced to become what others around you (your family, friends, society) expected you to be, the possibility […] Continue reading >