Nostalgia: When Are We Ever at Home?

Nostalgia: When Are We Ever at Home?

Nostalgia: When Are We Ever at Home?

Nostalgia: When Are We Ever at Home?

Synopsis

"Nostalgia makes claims on us both as individuals and as members of a political community. In this short book, Barbara Cassin provides an eloquent and sophisticated treatment of exile and of desire for a homeland, while showing how it has been possible for many to reimagine home in terms of language rather than territory. Moving from Homer's and Virgil's foundational accounts of nostalgia to the exilic writings of Hannah Arendt, Cassin revisits the dangerous implications of nostalgia for land and homeland, thinking them anew through questions of exile and language. Ultimately, Cassin shows how contemporary philosophy opens up the political stakes of rootedness and uprootedness, belonging and foreignness, helping us to reimagine our relations to others in a global and plurilingual world."

Excerpt

To the question “When are we ever at home?” Barbara Cassin offers here three answers represented by three figures, the first two mythical and the last one real: Odysseus, Aeneas, and Hannah Arendt. The first character, Odysseus, who is characterized as “divine,” answers the question by continuously deferring his “being back home”: even when he finally gets there and joins his wife Penelope in the very bed he sculpted himself out of a living tree, making sure it would thus remain rooted and unmovable, he is again driven away after only three days by his very incapacity to inhabit a home. What his Odyssey teaches him—and us—is that “home is the Mediterranean,” meaning the open, the cosmic, the infinite …

The journey of the second figure, Aeneas, known as the pious, apparently is the opposite of Odysseus’s: he leaves his native city of Troy in flames, taking with him what he can of his homeland, symbolized primarily by his father, whom he carries on his back. But he is not so much leaving a destroyed home as traveling toward the foundation of a new city, which is to become the center of the known world. And the most important aspect of that journey toward foundation, we discover with him, is that home is the new language, Latin, that he now adopts: instead of performing the colonial and imperial gesture of imposing new names and his Greek language on the natives, he melts into the local language and inhabits it as his home.

For the real historical figure too, Hannah Arendt, home is the language that she lives in against all opposition. Unlike Aeneas, who gave consent to his new home, Latin, the philosopher kept inhabiting her native tongue in spite of her exile: the German language was what remained of a homeland, or rather, what remained as a homeland. In so doing she taught us that . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.