The audience is hungry for information.
----Bourriaud, The Radicant
I once read a blog saying that the art without nationality is above all the rest. People talk about their “own unique” cultures because they don’t have anything else to show off. The writer suggests that it is more important to think about “where should we go” rather than “where did you come from”. She says multiculturalism is the outcome of immigration, and the foreign “invaders” call their work “the recognition of the other”.
My American friend who studies Chinese at Lawrence University just came back from a Chinese graduate school. As she was talking about the things she experienced in China, I could only think about how hard my neighbors and friends in China had tried to go abroad. Most of them went to Australia, New Zealand and Canada because it was easier to get a green card in those countries. When they did get the permit to stay, they acted as though they had just received the best honor of their life. And they started to call themselves Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians.
The Radicant talked about secondary roots. I like that word. After staying almost five years in America, I don’t know which culture I belong to any more. “Multiculturalism… conceives the individual as definitively assigned to his or her cultural, ethnic, or geographic roots” (34). I talk about my Chinese radicant all the time, because that is where I come from. I talk about my life in America a lot too, because that is where I became who I am – I am stuck, I don’t know how to define myself and that confuses me. Liese Ricketts told me during a critique: “It is good to feel stuck, because that is who you are.” It seems like because I have roots in both America and China, I have more options in my life, but I need to know which side defines me more.
Can we really free ourselves from our roots? No. “The root is both a mythical origin as well as an ideal goal” (45). I do not want to be called a “Chinese American.” I need to find a better word to define myself, and I plan to spend the rest of my life seeking that word. For those people without roots, I pity you.