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Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on June 20, 2010 2 Comments

Foreignness-emotionally charged-is boundless in its capacity to otherize, peripheralize, and silence. It is not limited by the very same boundaries it seeks to draw-the boundaries may be lifted, readjusted, shifted, moved…one can be enforeigned in different ways, through different lenses, lenses that seek to capture the external, in ways that-ironically-internalize the object of foreignizing. We are always foreign to each other; sometimes, we become foreign to ourselves. But the drive to assert the foreignness of others-people, places, languages, and things-runs deep, and, it is my speculation, innate to us. But, as I said before, in recognizing the foreignness of the other, we draw it into our field of existence, and suck it in to what we recognize as our world. In a strange way, foreignness is about validation.

As I think of it, I remember how utterly foreign I am-in almost every aspect of my life. I am an Indian citizen, living in America. In India, I “live in America,” and have lost some claim to Indianness by virtue of not having lived there for 10 out of the last eleven years. At Berkeley, I am not just a graduate student, I am an international graduate student, the class of mobile, itinerant, and putatively temporary students studying in America. I find myself foreigned in so many contexts, some times I am forced to wonder-in having lost the sense of being anchored in a sense of belonging-am I foreign to myself?

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2 Responses to “Foreignness”

  1. Rohan on: 22 June 2010 at 7:18 am

    Identity crisis, huh?

    One always gets tagged at different places. Its easier for others to recognise you that way, maybe. It starts with ‘the guy with an incomprehensible accent’ to ‘the geeky Indian at the university’. 🙂

    I go through this same feeling within my own country, reasons for which should be well known to you.

  2. Jürgen Kurtz on: 9 August 2010 at 10:49 am


    Does this run counter to your (initial) expectations? I am very interested in getting to know more about this, especially with regard to your assumption that there is, perhaps (?), “a drive to assert the foreignness of others – people, places, languages”, etc. (which is probably, as you say “innate to us”)?

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