home is where i sleep tonight

in a series of unrelated events i kept stumbling over the notion of ‘home’ recently.  living in a foreign country myself – in the, to be fair, probably most luxurious form of self-chosen academic migration, i have come to experience the seemingly paradox situation of traveling from home to home again and again. when a friend of mine, an academic migrant herself, and a talented scholar in developmental studies, expressed an interest in the question of ‘home’ for refugees who, by default, have come to live in a refugee camp for several years, created a life and educated their children there, and sometimes even have nothing but ruins to theoretically ‘return to’ as it is expected from them by their host country, i started to grasp the gravity of the question of home.

particularly in the german language, the question of home is more than a question of your current residency. instead the word ‘heimat’ refers to a native belonging and the question “where are you from” sounds more like a reference to “who are you” as if that information would reveal des pudels wahren kern [the poodle’s true nature/ the gist of the matter – a common german expression, derived from goethe in faust]. in that, i guess, i do not qualify as an austrian. and just recently this instinct of mine has been supported by my own mothers discovery that i refer to home as in wherever i will sleep tonight.

that in turn, however, reminded me of another interesting discussion with another academic migrant and friend of mine, who, in a debate about tribalism, noted how the world has gained a new tribe in the non territorially fixated, ethnically heterogenous, constantly moving nomads who form a group of international business (wo)men and academics. after all, she argued, belonging belongs to the common ground you share and in that it is the modern day nomads who connect on the basis not physically belonging anywhere.

now, i would not go as far as throwing self-chosen, intentional- and forced migration into one pod. but the one thing that might just connect them is the way they do not belong and the struggle to find a new, less territorial, factual and emotional understanding of what constitutes ‘home’. and it is here that i would like to post the question that i have been struggling with for all my life: why do we need the sense of belonging at all? is it the old hope that the answer to where you come from tells you where you need to go? is it the quest for meaning in a seemingly empty life? is it the sociality of humanity that posts this longing? and if so, what about the paradox that every inclusion, every belonging, every group, every community, only exists in the differentiation to something else and hence is always, by nature of the thing itself, exclusionary? and do we then find a solution to exclusion in individuality or in a bigger, global, border transcending community?

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