Where are you from? Part 7

That is it, there is no more. Thank you for participating in this project. Writing it certainly helped me to clarify and work through a lot of my thinking and pain around this question, and I feel a lot easier within myself. I hope it was helpful for some of you, too.

With all that in mind –

with opening thoughts on what belonging can mean,
figuring the components of fromness,
who gets asked the question,
always being from elsewhere,
feeling like you’re home,
and casting our gazes into the future

– with all that in mind, how has your fromness changed or been made more clear over the course of the last few weeks? How has your thinking around this question developed?

About Chally

Chally is a student by day, a freelance writer by night, a scary, scary feminist all the time, and a voracious reader whenever she has a spare moment. She also blogs at Zero at the Bone. Full bio here.
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8 Responses to Where are you from? Part 7

  1. k not K says:

    I was just thinking of this series, in regards to this blog post: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2011/04/the-pleasures-of-exile/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HarrietTheBlog+%28Harriet%3A+The+Blog%29

    I met students with stories about their sense of exile with connections to Jamaica, to Puerto Rico, to Belize, to Pakistan, to Iran—they all had stories. I could identify with their stories. These were students who were seriously writing and hoping to write well. But this sense of “home” was complicating their idea of their art. The alienation was not caused by being different in overt ways in America, but in their own internal wrestling with this idea of place, of home.

    Of course, I had a lot to say to them about this. I understand this complication. I suspect that while this is not a new story it is complicated by the fact that these students have greater access to their “home” spaces than someone might have twenty or thirty years ago. The internet has effectively turned exile into something quite different—something that can be confusing. Many read routinely the newspapers of their different “homes”, they were in direct contact with relatives through Skype and facebook, they had chances to travel there, they could find all the food from their spaces as they could want.

    But their most pressing question was whether they had a right to write about those places. They wondered if they had a right to even write about their American home.

    This definitely has a lot of bearing on how I think about “fromness”. I still read more American than German media, for example. The computer is constantly a lifeline back to the US, which I use to stay in contact with friends & family. That perpetuates a feeling of being in-between.

    I’m ok with the in-between feeling. But as I mentioned on the last thread, I’m at a point in my life where many things are transient and temporary. If it ever comes to the point where I really start a household and family of my own here, I’m sure that my slight feelings of conflict will become more intense. Yet that conflict fuels a lot of my activism; I wouldn’t want it to ever go away.

    Really enjoyed the series, by the way.

  2. I wanted to thank you for this series, Chally. I’ve learned a lot about my own white privilege.

    Through this series my thinking went from “what is this weird Australian thing Chally is talking about?” to “OMG, I never knew how privileged I am in my sense of belonging!”

    I will not use “where are you from?” as a conversation starter anymore, regardless of the other person’s colour, that’s for sure.

    Thank you for taking the time to educate me.

  3. Nahida says:

    Thanks so much Chally.

  4. Thanks for a compelling series. I wait anxiously for your next one.

  5. Chally says:

    Thank you very much.

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  7. Rayna says:

    Just wanted to share a recent experience –

    Recently happened upon an Indonesian Festival in my city. Having a look at all the stalls, I saw one called ‘something Timor’ (the something word I can’t remember turned out to mean Cafe). Other stalls were similarly named by place. I thought ‘hey, Timor!’ and we lined up. Boyfriend said “you’re Timorese” as an affirmative to my ‘hey, Timor’ and my reaction to that – despite the rest – was ‘Oh YEAH!’ like I’d forgotten or something. And then I had a weird sense of… ‘these are my people!’. Which I had never felt before.

    This story comes sans analysis, but I just thought – it’s weird that I ‘forget’ (or don’t experience?) my Timorese-ness, even though it was for that reason that I lined up. I’ve never grown up with anyone on that side of my family or anyone else Timorese, so culturally my background is predominantly Anglo middle Australian, whatever that means for different people. So feeling a strange sense of co-membership at that festival was new… For the record, I don’t think the stall workers were at all Timorese, and many festival-goers were from all parts of Indonesia and elsewhere as well, so that feeling was more from a cultural connection (I suppose?) than anything else – I wouldn’t have known who was Timorese from other Indonesian origins.

    Anyway, your series has been really fascinating for me Chally, and I thought of my recent experience when I read this – I’m still clarifying my thoughts on from-ness, although as I tried to articulate in an earlier post comment, I also think I have the privilege of ‘belonging’ for the most part – it’s just it gets complicated sometimes. Thank you for the series and opening up the issues for exploration.

  8. saurus says:

    Reflecting — I thought about how for me, “home” is detached from “family” because “family” has always been the opposite of “home”, in an emotional sense. I wondered whether you have to have some sense of ownership or belonging or agency in a place to feel like it’s home, and how that might explain why many places that one might traditionally call “home” never feel like home to me. And I thought about how violence and trauma can define what does, or does not, feel like home – either turning a home into something else, or preventing something from even becoming a home in the first place. And I thought about how fromness is usually linked to the intergenerational history of your family and not knowing or caring about your family’s history because you aren’t actively in a family can complicate your understanding of fromness. And I thought about what it means to look ethnically different from the white default; what I must look like to the outside world to warrant that “where are you from” question so routinely. And I thought about how at the same time that I’m bitter about my lack of from-feelings and homeward inclinations, I also relish feeling disconnected and free. And then I thought about how coming to my apartment and seeing my cat is its own kind of freedom. And then I ate some chips.

    Thanks for facilitating this whole thing, Chally.

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