Being a Bolognesi
To explain why I named this blog, "Being a Bolognesi," I have to go back to France, not literally, but semantically. In the winter/spring of 2012, I spent a semester in Aix-en-Provence, France. The picture attached to this post is in fact in Aix, not Italy.
When I arrived in Aix, the other students and I were told to try to become Aixois -- the demonym for a person from Aix. To do so, many of the faculty said, the students would have to take every chance possible for cultural immersion: don't walk through the streets with headphones in, shop at the markets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, spend weekends in the city instead of traveling, etc, etc. One professor even said to truly be an Aixois you would have to step in dog droppings -- which are fairly common on certain streets in Aix -- while looking at the beauty of the city. That is when you will know that you are embracing the city.
Of course as many of my readers know, my friends and I redefined Aix. I believe we did this politely. Aix is a college town after all, so the antics of twenty somethings, whether they be French or American, are common in that city. It is safe to say that we made the city embrace us, and it is a love affair that still exists.
But the brevity of my stay in Aix isn't necessarily the reason I was never an Aixois. Many established ex-pats in Aix often quipped about how they weren't even considered Aixois after a number of years living in the city. My host mom, although not an ex-pat, even talked about how she identified more closely with where she came from in Northern France (Lille, in case you were wondering.)
There are a number of reasons why the American students in Aix were never accepted as Aixois. Maybe it was our association with America's imperial soft power. We were, after all, studying at the Institute for AMERICAN Universities, in France of all places. And in Bologna I will again be at an American institution marooned in Europe.
Maybe we weren't accepted because of our differing values systems. "E Pluribus Unum" a latin phrase that is found on all American coinage means "from many, one." Meaning from many nations, we have one identity as Americans. The ubiquity of this American phrase suggests an openness to being accepted as an American. My readers will know that is not true in Europe, where ethnic and national identity is of higher importance.
Point of Personal Privilege
Take this excerpt from my favorite TV show of all time, Mad Men. Conrad Hilton, the famed Hotelier, displays a prevailing notion of how Americans see the world. My favorite historian Niall Ferguson expounds on this topic in his book Colossus, which explains America's empire and, in his view, why empires can be good for humanity. Ferguson cites the example of how McDonalds makes more money overseas than in America. Hilton has similar ambitions, but his ambitions are a little more overtly patriotic, to say the least
So I name this blog not to sound presumptuous; I know nine months in the city wont necessarily make me a Bolognesi. But I will try to be a Bolognesi. However, even if I fail, the name of the blog has purpose. I plan on reporting back to all of you what it means to be a Bolognesi, even if I am not a Bolognesi myself -- which, upon further reflection may be more difficult than I originally thought being that Peter Griffin speaks Italian better than I do.
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