Cultural subversion

Getting in touch with Germany again after two decades away, is quite an experience. Prompted by being in my birth country for the last three months, I am currently thinking about my identity, alliance and loyalties a lot. Naturally. But that “coming-home, or what?” thinking does not take place in an ordered fashion, it comes and goes, is random and a quite unpredictable.

It manifests itself in the weirdest places. For example not knowing the Euro coins too well (I rather pay with card or paper). Or feeling out of it a tad, as Milchkaffee is not what it used to be when I left Germany in the 90s (I simply feel utterly betrayed!). More usefully, coming back to campaigning, I stumbled across this passage in my latest reading:

One could start to see why people who inhabit spaces between cultures and nations really could be a problem to law and order, at least in some ways. Because they could present an example of “persistence” and could infect others with that. It makes them „unreliable“ and therefore suspicious. These people are danger zones and potential pockets of resistance. They dare to see beyond established borders, and see through the borders’ randomness, haphazardness and sheer-chance existence, to withstand the power of convention. This makes them uncomfortable to others. This is subversion.

Reading this, I sat in the Café (how continental!), with a large Milchkaffee (it wasn’t 90s style!), and actually burst out laughing rather loudly spilling some coffee too: I was so exhilaratingly in tune with that statement. The paragraph is from Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim’s “What’s after the family?” (Was kommt nach der Familie? 2000) and it deeply chimed with me.

Maybe, I asked myself, this could go some way, also, to explaining why a French and a German founded a cycle campaign in a northenglish city? Maybe our cultural borderwork helped us see things, that others did not or could not see? Undoubtedly we have become uncomfortable to the authorities, sadly (but hey, that is campaigning after all). And perhaps what we have done could be called subversion. Isn’t reading books so very exciting!

The upshot, I would say, is that diversity matters, a great deal. It means new views can be had. New idea formations assembled. Innovations can result. If we let it. If we create the spaces and atmospheres where diversity is heard.


Original German text

[M]an [beginnt] zu ahnen, warum die Menschen, die sich zwischen den Kulturen und Nationen bewegen, tatsächlich ein Ordnungsproblem darstellen, in gewissem Sinne zumindest. Denn sie könnten ein Beipiel der „Aufsässigkeit“ geben und damit auch noch andere anstecken. Das macht sie „unzuverlässig“  und deshalb verdächtig. Sie sind Gefahrenherde und potentielle Widerstandnester. Sie können es wagen, über die vorgegebenen Grenzen zu blicken, ihre Willkür, Beliebigkeit, Zufälligkeit zu durchschauen, der Macht der Gewöhnung zu widerstehen. Das macht sie unbequem. Das ist Subversion.



One thought on “Cultural subversion

  1. I’m not sure what Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim means by “persistence” (guess it would be best to read her to find out), but the randomness and haphazardness of borders… sometimes it’s necessary to remember that for many people these are real and important, non-artificial delineations; even when they have changed within their own lifetime.


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