Spaces of Identity - Part 14

posted by usha on 2006/01/13 08:28

[ Spaces of Identity ]

Spaces of Identity usually are no big deal, as long as one is living and acting within a familiar and emphatic (cultural) space. Identity becomes a forged space, yet, when different cultural spaces start to overlap and interact.

When reading the Blog-entries on Transitory-I by Olena, Nadja, and Margaret (Crossing the Borders) I at once regarded such situations of lining up for getting a visa as being a good example for that.

The foreign embassy one has to go to and where one has to apply for a visa is a foreign political and cultural space. Empathy is completely beyond its limits, it is of absolutely no question. If one is looking for empathic assistance, one cannot avoid using networks: who is working there and a relative or friend of someone whom I know personally.

This is not about any negative image of bureaucracy as an impersonal and badly functioning machine, about what I was talking at another opportunity. This rather about the experience of leaving the boundaries of familiar and sheltered spaces.

The experience does not have to be a bad one which unsettles the diffuse notion of identity and the self-confidence. It also can be a fundamentally positive experience, something like an excursion into one's personal peripheries.

I had both sorts of experiences - the feeling of being disregarded and of stepping beyond myself – in Estonia, five years ago. Since Estonia didn't belong to the EU then, it was not that easy to get the visa, though I didn't have to go to Berlin personally, but to send everything in. Anyway, the second time I went there, something went wrong, and I did not get back my passport with the visa in time. Thus, I had to travel without the passport, what is, normally, impossible. Anyway, I managed to do so, but I could not know whether I would be able to cross the border or whether I had to spent the night in the prison in Tallinn and then be sent back again the next morning. Everything went fine, but the missing stamp of entry in my passport caused me troubles each time I was crossing any border after that.

Nevertheless, being foreign and being forced to express diverse sorts of identities, including a national and specific cultural identity, has been a positive experience, too. With this side of alternating spaces of identity which where called "Europeaness" by my colleague Claus Sommerhage I am dealing in the obituary published on Kk.rev in honor of Claus Sommerhage and my Estonian colleagues.


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