Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Blogging and (expatriate) identity

I just came across this essay by Lauren Elkin on blogging and identity that somehow rang very true with me.

<5> It is not surprising that personal blogs flourish when the writer is in a new, challenging context. The encounter of the Self and the Other, the decision to leave the Familiar for the Unfamiliar, and the alchemical processes evinced on the already unstable, already susceptible being that is the Self provides potent inspiration and material. It can be a spectacular thing to read, the expat blog; a multimedia, hypertext travelogue; and it often attracts readers who are or who would like to be in similarly exotic and challenging situations.

<6> As Huston and Sebbah discover over the course of their correspondence, for the expatriate writer, foreign soil is often more fertile than that of their native land: there is something in the experience of being a foreigner that gives root to inspiration, which in turn produces writing like ivy wrapping itself around a tree. But all this organic literary production relies on the distance retained from the adopted land, as well as the distance from the place of origin.

<7> The same is true for the expatriate blogger. In order for the blog topics to remain compelling for the reader, I would argue that the blogger must not get too close or assimilate too deeply to the adopted culture. Everything depends on the blogger's ability to stand back and comment on what they see in such a way that they are still able to present it as interesting and fresh for their readers, and perhaps, by so doing, understanding and making the new experience part of themselves. Once blogged, the experience can be absorbed into the Self, which is always already in the process of conglomeration and transformation.

These observations are true not only in the context of blogging. I think that many immigrants and expats (what's the difference, does anyone know?) experience the same regardless of whether they choose to document it online or otherwise. How many of you feel more interesting, more interestED, more engaged with your surroundings when you are away from "home"? I know I do.

It's actually that very inspiration I derive from being a "foreigner" that makes me hold on to my Bulgarianness as tightly as I do. It has nothing to do with being from Bulgaria per se, I don't think. It's more about distancing myself enough from what's in front me in order to be able to fully enjoy it.

I'm curious to hear if that's what you've experienced as well.

Image by Brian Coape-Arnold


  1. I think it's interesting and beautiful to write about the duality of being a blogger and expatriate. I've only spent 6 months abroad at once and while I intend to spend more time working and living abroad, I recall the distinct loneliness, yet invigorating feeling of independence and self-discovery while writing/living tens of thousands of miles away from home.

  2. Hey,
    Thanks for your note and for featuring this entry on Brazen Careerist.

    I got really interested in this topic of the expat experience as a source for inspiration and creativity and have been finding a lot of interesting articles/blogs as a result. Will be posting more in the days to come.

    It's very nice to meet you! Hope you stick around. :)

  3. You read Reconstruction too! I love the stuff they publish there. Me and Vlado found it independenty while searching the intertubes for intellectual nourishment.

  4. I agree even though I lived in the States I always remembered where I came from: Mexico. I only began hearing the term expat when we moved overseas to Croatia. Someone told me you are an expat when you leave your country of origin and move to a new country and live there for over a year. But I wonder what about when your one year turns into 25 years? then you continue being an expat or an immigrant?

    A Mexican chica living in Europe