Sunday, October 30, 2016

About being from

Listening — because I’m middle aged and middle class and a bit of a ponce — to Kwame Anthony Appiah’s Reith Lecture about Country, which discusses the validity of the nation state as a measure of identity in a modern, interconnected world, and he keeps returning the question, “where are you from?” It’s a complex and occasionally painful query for many people, whatever colour passport they wield. I usually say “London”. It feels right for me (Appiah also discusses how national and civic identity is often as much about emotion as reason) and usually leaves the other person satisfied. 

What do you say?


LC said...

"Gillingham for a bit but I was really too young to remember, then Worcester but only until I was nine, mostly Manchester although I never felt like it was my home, and London since I was twenty which is really where I really feel I belong, but I did spend a couple of years in Brighton and I'd happily move back in a heartbeat but I'd never convince my wife because she's always been a Londoner."

Usually I just say London.

Steerforth said...

It's complicated. On the one hand, I'm very much a product of the London suburb I grew up in, but I haven't lived there for 15 years and it's changed so much, I only identity with what it was. Saying I'm from Lewes or Sussex also feels fraudulent, but I say it because it's not loaded with all the cultural baggage that "I'm from London" has.

Timorous Beastie said...

I usually get asked this question in the context of work, so can legitimately cop out and respond by saying which university I'm from. However, if I get tangled up in the other sort of "where are you from?" question, then I say "Glasgow, but..." and make my excuses about not having lived there for a very long time. The other day, I was asked which football team I supported (this was a follow up question to 'where are you from?'). I remembered, too late, my grandmother's answer "I support my legs and they support me".