Identities in conflict? Not at all! | Halas Časopis studentů Fakulty sociálních studií. 32. ročník

Identities in conflict? Not at all!

Do rubriky Okénka napsal (Úterý, 18. říjen 2011)

On October 14 and 15, I attended a conference sponsored by the sociology department entitled “Conflict in Identities, Identities in Conflict”. Like last year, we welcomed visitors from abroad – including Italy, Russia, Hungary, the United States and the United Kingdom – and most had never been to Brno before. The difference is that this time, the expertise concerning where to go (a sunny walk around the lake) and how to get there (tram 1, 3 or 11 to the end) flowed effortlessly from my lips as if from a native, even going as far as claiming to know one of the “best kept secrets in the city” – the magical Irish coffee at Mezzanine.

But wait – after just one year and a quarter, how could I possibly begin to lay claim to a brněnská identity? I believe most of my students and colleagues see me as an American that is a visitor. But I have felt my identity carve into pieces. When I travel back to the United States, I am “a professor in Europe”, something that most people, even in a globalized world, still see as very glamorous. When I stay with my Ukrainian relatives that live in Eastern Slovakia, I am a Ukrainian American, something that is also pretty glamorous for a small village like Smolnik. Yet when I step off the train into the less-than-glamorous Brno hlavní nádraží, I feel that I have come back home.

Normally, all these different parts of me live in harmony. It took a conference on the subject of identity to bring them into conflict, but not for long. I realized by the end of the weekend that on a very basic level, this had become my city (even if my boss had to educate me on how one of the city’s neighbor­hoods got the American nickname of “The Bronx”). How authentic does that make my advice to the conference visitors? One of the presenters described authenticity as being true to oneself, something that only become an issue when some sort of doubt arises. No one doubted my nuanced advice about the city’s cafés (Falk for sitting a long time, Podnebi for the garden and Zastávka for sheer hipness). And there is no doubt in my mind that for better or worse (mostly better!), Brno has insinuated its way deep into my soul.

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