Att befinna sig i utkanten

Detta med identiteter är intressant. De kan å ena sidan ge trygghet, struktur och samhörighet, men å andra sidan också splittring, exkludering och konflikt. Tony Judt skriver om sin egen identitet som ”identitetslös”, eller kanske snarare som varandes i utkanten av ett antal identiteter:

I prefer the edge: the place where countries, communities, allegiances, affinities, and roots bump uncomfortably up against one another—where cosmopolitanism is not so much an identity as the normal condition of life. Such places once abounded. Well into the twentieth century there were many cities comprising multiple communities and languages—often mutually antagonistic, occasionally clashing, but somehow coexisting. Sarajevo was one, Alexandria another. Tangiers, Salonica, Odessa, Beirut, and Istanbul all qualified—as did smaller towns like Chernovitz and Uzhhorod. By the standards of American conformism, New York resembles aspects of these lost cosmopolitan cities: that is why I live here.

To be sure, there is something self-indulgent in the assertion that one is always at the edge, on the margin. Such a claim is only open to a certain kind of person exercising very particular privileges. Most people, most of the time, would rather not stand out: it is not safe. If everyone else is a Shia, better to be a Shia. If everyone in Denmark is tall and white, then who—given a choice—would opt to be short and brown? And even in an open democracy, it takes a certain obstinacy of character to work willfully against the grain of one’s community, especially if it is small.

Jag ser detta som ett ”praktiskt ideal”: att försöka förhålla sig distanserad från identiteter eller, i vart fall, att försöka omfatta identiteter som inte är alltför rigida, introverta och partikularistiska. Det är bl.a. därför jag tilltalas av atomistisk sammanhållning och kosmopolitanism.

Tips: Olle Häggström.