Homesickness and the In-between

The Affect & Inquiry Symposium was an eye-opening experience for me, as a novice to the literature, providing case studies that were easier to grasp than dense theoretical arguments. I especially appreciated talks that demonstrated the many different ways I could use the idea of affect within my own academic interests. I was particularly intrigued by the second full panel titled, “Feeling Out of It.” Since Brook has laid out concise yet insightful interpretations of the panel’s arguments, I’d like to offer a few additional thoughts about one of the talks in particular.

Especially useful and interesting for me was Sean Scanlan’s talk, “What does globalization feel like?” He presented a case study of two pieces of literature about international airports analyzing two different types of homesickness, global and radical.  Examining “A long way home” and “The terminal man,” Scanlan was able to articulate meaninngs of homesickness as a collision of two selves: the old self of the past, who once belonged to its original home, and the new, who has gained new insight through broader understanding, or the experience of “affect.” Scanlan describes his idea of “global homesickness” as the combined feelings of displacement and detachment from a literal or local “home” along with a new attachment to various non-local, even non-state, entities. One feels loss in the excess of new possibilities and realizes that the cherished idea of wholeness is an illusion because a genuine feeling of wholeness is impossible. The “radical homesickness,” on the other hand, is experiencing a lack of choice, being barred from affiliating with desired groups. The individual feels powerless because his/her national and ethnic affiliation is unwanted by the people in power, usually the felt experience of a refugee or exile. In answering his own question of the weighing valence of homesickness, whether or not homesickness could serve as a positive function or act as resistance to global inequality, he notes that the global corresponds to the former and radical to the latter.

In thinking about global homesickness, I wanted to ask Scanlan if the feeling of nostalgia could be further articulated. I began to think about the state that induces homesickness and nostalgia: the state of in-between. The temporal and spatial in-betweens are the past and the present selves that you have to face within continuous global mobility. The feeling of in-between includes the loss and longing for home, that is, feelings of nostalgia, and could include the possibility of going back home, or even frequent visits to home. But you never fully belong to the past self precisely due to the newer experience.  You are ambivalent about the past and the present because you feel detached from both. In other words, your changed perspectives do not welcome you to your mental and psychological construction of home, as you are now able to observe your past with a set of critical eyes, yet you feel displaced as a global nomad within your ability to be mobile. You’re constantly afloat, but stuck in the in-between.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s