Thursday, March 17, 2011

Huwiyya

(I started to write this at the end of the last post, but it got so long and unrelated, I decided to make it a separate one.)

Having traveled back and forth between University City (undergrad, masters, some work) and baladelba7th and then University Town (PhD) and baladelba7th for the last ten years, I'm used to both culture shock and reverse culture shock.  One thing that struck me though, in visiting University Town (where I have actually lived for less time than baladelba7th) was the comparative way in which locals perceptions of me affect this experience.  In baladelba7th, I'm assumed to be a clueless foreigner until I prove otherwise.  The questions strangers ask and the assumptions they make about what I will think usually annoy me immensely, because I generally don't think that, or I think that the issue is too complicated to fit into a nice little East/West Venn diagram.

In University Town (and really, most of Home Country), I have the same problems, but for opposite reasons.  People assume that because we share a nationality, we share the same ideas and customs.  We don't, although I'm not sure why.  Possibly because I have a weak sense of national identity and don't know pop culture.  Thus, in my interactions with strangers in University Town, I often felt amused and puzzled, and then annoyed, because they were assuming we would share something we didn't.  Of course, when baladelba7th came up, as it often did when I was explaining why I was moving there, they too asked me questions that made me feel as though they were pulling out that same East/West Venn diagram and filling it in.  Which is even more annoying.

I hate the dichotomous identities that proliferate my world.  They may be easy, but they are wrong.  It may be possible to set poles and then discuss in a valid and nuanced the range from end to end, but it seems that most of the time people simply want to set identity poles and pigeonhole people into them.  For me, it's the parts that don't fit into these holes that are most interesting.

3 comments:

  1. "I hate the dichotomous identities that proliferate my world."

    -I was going to write my doctoral dissertation about this very subject. But then I was told that nobody found it relevant any longer. I guess people who said that were very wrong. :-)

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  2. Luckily for me, this topic is still going strong (if a a bit off the beaten path) in my field.

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  3. I think that people like dichotomous identities becuase they want to know whether you're like them or not. It's easier to deal with things in life whereby things, idenities, politics, viewpoints can be divided into two boxes...'yes' or 'no' or the other common term black or white/right or wrong,...binary opposites. However, some of us know that everything in life isn't full of binary opposites...there are many more options/combinations in reality. Things are really various shades of gray.

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