Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My love to my people

Emperor Franz II, who following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire became Franz I, is featured in the statue seen here. He was viewed as a symbol of the multi-ethnic populace that inhabited his part of the planet. Both days that I have spent in this seminar have been focused on the diversity that exists in Austria and the idea of national vis a vis ethnic identity. So many parts of Austrian culture, which Austrias assume to be AUSTRIAN are actually not really Austrian in origin at all. Both the city tour guide from yesterday and the guest speaker that we had this morning emphasized this point repeatedly. 

I think that this idea of a nation dominated by people who have a background of immigrants is not something new for Americans, but for Austrians, who tend to be conservative, this is a challenging thought. The question remains, "How does one qualify or characterize one's cultural identity?"

What is Austrian?

1. Name the most famous psychoanalyst of all time, the father of his field of study....great work! Sigmund Freund, of course. Oh, bummer, he was born in the Czech Republic, not Austria! And, he died in England! Most people would label him as a famous Austrian. How do you decide your nationality? Is it your birthplace? Is it wherever you hold citizenship? Is it dependent upon your parents' nationality? Another surprising statistic: many people are immigrating to Austria all of the time. The number contributor of immigrants? Germany, no joke.

2. One of the things that I have truly enjoyed while staying here in Vienna are the numerous coffeehouses and cafes that are everywhere. I'm slowly learning how to make my way around the coffee menu and I am remembering to drink my obligatory glass of water following my coffee so that my delicate balance of bodily hydration is kept in check. However, coffee culture and the enjoyment of java was a gift from the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire! When does a custom, tradition, or recipe become native? How long do the Austrians have to drink coffee before they can call it their own? This is a controversial point in Austria, because the third largest immigrant group is people from Turkey. There exists a reasonable amount of xenophobia for the Turkish here. Idea: let's just have one big coffee talk and all will be well.

So, Franz, wherever you are, please send your love to your people. What I have learned today is that the Austrian people include many ethnic backgrounds: Germans, peoples from the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Italy, the Czech Republic, the Roma and Sinti, and many more. Oh yeah, and 1 American girl who is hanging out here for a bit.

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