London is so “global and transnational” that the question of “purity and authenticity” has long lost its absolute value. Despite our common experience of the multicultural city, our self-definitions often relate to a form of national belonging and a desire to trace one’s own ancestry.
During my year abroad to London, last year, many of my Spanish friends came to experience London but ended up experiencing ‘Spanishness’. Almost everyone they knew was from their own country. And though it was like a year-long free Spanish lesson for me, I never understood the charm of clambering together in such nationalism.
…mirror the phenomenon of forming emigrant communities…
This wasn’t a one off. Societies such as KCL Italians or Ex-Yugoslav Society say it all: it is not about promoting their culture, it is about getting together. Such small initiatives, however, mirror the phenomenon of forming emigrant communities (diasporas).
Even though there are many theories which aim to categorize the principles of diasporic formation, the reasons are far more numerous. The idea of one’s “native home” has proven resistant and cross-cultural to an extent that it defines social structures.
…she “can never live anywhere but the UK because she is British”…
A friend of mine, naturalized British, speaks fluent Turkish, watches Turkish films, listens to folk music and plays a folk instrument. The nostalgic value she places on anything from her homeland signals her desire to negotiate her identity as a multiple composite. Though she “can never live anywhere but the UK because she is British” she never fails to mention her Turkish origins.
Once in Turkey, however, she is British because of her slight accent and foreign manner. This complex duality of belonging and detachment from both cultures is characteristic of many. Minority groups willingly recreate their homeland as a daily experience while still embracing the host land’s lifestyle (“selective accommodation” as James Clifford calls it).
…such a twofold (self-)definition is very common…
While such a twofold (self-)definition is very common for social groups of different-than-the-dominant cultures or languages, it has only recently been used to outline collective interactions and their role in (re-)structuring the contemporary urban society.
The question to answer is, however, not whether the ‘native’ is authentic, but how the signs and symbols of the homeland function in order to establish the boundaries and common points between ethnically and culturally diverse communities.