Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Images from Karneval in Cologne

Click here to see more

From the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger

Monday, February 27, 2006

Toasters, Unite!

Friday’s episode of Battlestar Galactica emphasized things that I had suspected about the development of Cylon society: the emergence of a hierarchy between models and a sense of morality and leadership among the more complicate Cylons.

For most of the series, the more robotic, “toaster”-like cylons did almost all the fighting, while the “humanoid”-like cylons refrained from combat. They play the roles of normal humans in order to remain covert, but they are never the poilus, the grunts at the front. Furthermore, the raiders (the flying crescents that descend on the fleet from nowhere) are beasts of burden: their role is to fight, and their memories are filled with bitterness and pain over constant death and reincarnation. In the last episode, the divisions became more clear. The “toasters” performed the labor (landscaping, security) and the “humanoids” enjoyed the parks and the cafes. Only the humanoids sat down with each other to chat. Is there any conversation that goes on between the two?

Moreover, a hierarchy is developing between the models of humanoid cylons themselves. Four (Lucy Lawless) embodies uncomplicated notions rights based on the goals of the race/culture; she even revealed some resentment of the superiority of the models that followed. Six (Tricia Helfer) is conflicted between different elements of spiritual teaching: humanity is obviously murderous, but should Cylons ape humanity in taking its place? Finally, Eight (Grace Park), who apparently is capable of naturally conceiving with a human, feels deep moral regret based on her ability to bond with humans. Each new model is capable of greater regret and introspection with regard to the war and their part in it. Six, the more theologically-oriented Cylon, may be the one who is caught between the two vision of moral improvement, as if she were the ego between the id and super-ego.

Still, there is much unanswered. Some might say that they differences are trivial, that they are just matters of convenience (easier, and less cheesy, to let the humanoids do the acting.) However, some thought has been put into the evolution of cylons, not just as a matter of improving with each new model, but also in relation to their contact with humans.

I am not sure what to make of this dimension of the Cylons. Evolving awareness of morality is an interesting dimension of the show, but it tends to occur only within those Cylons that are most human, most capable of simulating humans–those who can, by design, integrate themselves in human society. At the same time, humans prejudice those Cylons who look most like them, and not the ones that are obviously machines. Moments of understanding, such as what tends to happen whenever “Sharon” interacts with Adama, are not encounters with the other. Indeed, characters must be constantly reminded of her lack of humanity. Ultimately, moral improvement is self-discovery rather than as a process of engagement. The problem will become more relevant if, as I suspect, a division will occur between the more human Cylons and the mechanistic underclass ...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunday Reading

On the tip of my tongue: Any one who loves to learn languages should check out Omniglot. It's a fun site: it describes numerous writing systems, links to media and learning sites and gives great advice on how to learn languages, especially more than one at a time (although someone will have to tell my why "Իմ սավառնաթիռում լիքը օձաձուկ է (my hovercraft is full of eels)" is a useful phrase.

If you remember, I was going to attempt to read Ortega y Gasset in Spanish. I tried. It was a miserable failure. I can't believe how little progress I made, and I could not demystify the language--the language of (one of) my peeps! A friend has suggested that it is difficult to transition from French to Spanish because the former is much more formal. Anyway, I've decided to pick up a little Catalan. So far, it's a lot of fun: it retains many archaic features. It also has a vibrant literature for what might be described as a "dialect." And it is much more useful for studying regionalism, especially the newspapers in Barcelona.

Integration: Joel Kotkin looks at "The Multiculturalism of the Streets," arguing that the growing relationship between Mexicanos/Latinos and the market is creating a natural pull towards English-speaking that will take 2-3 generations to become fully manifested. (HT: Latino Pundit) I think that this makes a better argument that engagement is a better strategy for integration than forced assimilation or multiculturalism. Boris Cyrulnik's "Un antisemitisme inculpabilisable" asks a difficult question: to what extent was Ilan Halimi the victim of an antisemitism born of the isolation of non-European youth in France.

Artificial Satellite: Alexander Trevi has a post on visions of asteroid-based communities. Perhaps it is better living than the super-development of the terrestrial landscape, as one writer has suggested. (HT: Philobiblon) [ETA] Why can't Sunnis and Shias share patrimony? (HT: And Far Away)

Around the World: Inside Iran has been looking at religious and cultural festivals in Iran. I recommend this one on Tahsu'a.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Very Negative Integration

Could offensive cartoons of Mohammed unite Europe? Perhaps not, but it is ironic that this affair has forced many to define "Western" intellectual culture with (hitherto unknown) clarity and defending its prerogatives from "Eastern" religious interference..

"We are less divisive than you"

The artificiality of sectionalism under the dynamic conditions of the early republic ... was most apparent in the rapid development of the Ohio Valley. Settlers of this region were the first self-conscious, avowed sectionalists in American history. What was distinctive about these Westerners, or so they claimed, was that they had shed the habits and prejudices of their natal states. “take the Virginian from his plantation, or the Yankee from his boat and harpoon, or from his snug cottage” and settle him in the West, asserted Cincinnati editor James Hall, and each would soon become “a different man; his national character will burst the chains of local habit.” Westerners, including settlers on both sides of the Ohio, and beyond, portrayed themselves as quintessential Americans, and their “section” as a place where sectional distinctions were resolved and transcended. In this self-congratulatory rhetoric, sectional identity merged with a vaulting sense of the nation’s glorious future and a patriotic devotion to union.

Yet minimizing differences among Westerners themselves, differences that would become increasingly conspicuous as controversy over the future of slaver in the territories polarized American politics, meant that Western polemicists would emphasize and exaggerate sectional distinctions elsewhere. Thus, just as Western boosters were the most authentic legatees of the Federalists’ expansive, developmental rhetoric, they also emphasized the reality, if only implicitly the dangers, of sectional differences. Union and section thus were inextricably linked: positively, as boosters identified the West with the nation’s destiny; negatively, as they juxtaposed the harmony of interests that supposed characterized their bustling region with the conflicts and jealousies of mutually antagonistic section in the East.

From “Federalism, Republicanism, and the Origins of American Sectionalism” by Peter S. Onuf, in All over the map: Rethinking American Regions

I have found that regionalists often claims or uses patriotism in order to promote itself: the Rhineland was the birthplace of medieval German culture, or Alsatians embodied the democratic, constitutional elements that would become France. Sometimes such arguments could be used in order to take control of a political issue, especially those related to governmental and administrative structures, but all with regard to foreign policy and economic planning.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Enough of Spain: leaders in Madrid fear that the Catalonia example will encourage other Spanish states to claim autonomy for themselves, disaggregating the state. So far the government has had a wait and see approach, but several military leader has 'hinted' at military intervention (Jose Mena Aguado, Roberto Gonzalez Calderon.) A survey taken over the weekend (in dialect) showed that 54.5% of Catalonians think that Catalonia is a nation within Spain. 42.8% think that they are just as Spanish as they are Catalan, 24% think they are more Catalan, 15.2% think that they a just Catalan. Prevailing sentiment seems to be working againt strengthening ties with the center.

Royal-Sarkozy in the making: it appears that the upcoming French elections will be a battle between minister of interior Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, deputy in the French National Assembly. Royal appears to be significantly more popular than former PM Lionel Jospin, but at this early stage it is difficult to tell how successful she can be: outside the left, Jospin is significantly more popular than Royal, and Sarkozy's popularity seems to be unshaken.

Perhaps something that is weighing down both Royal and Jospin: the significant increase in taxes in régions led by the socialist party (PS.) Blame is being put on 2003 reforms by Raffarin that took competencies away from the national government, but while PS-led Burgundy has seen a 64% increase, neighboring Alsace has seen only a 2.5% increase. The French press is having fewer problems with regionalism than the PS: the pattern of consolidation shows the formation of three distinct zones in the greater east, greater Brittany, and in the southeast, in which one or a few native news agencies dominate.

Sarkozy, prolific as usual, appeared in Berlin to sell a fix to the EU constitution, recommending removing key articles (double majority, stable presidency, singular ministry of foreign affair) and proposing. He also advocated a new center, adding Britain, Italy, Poland and Spain to the current "Franco-German engine."

Despite resolving to send a force into DR Congo to oversee upcoming elections, no members of the European Union have contributed to the force. At the heart of the problem, "not one of the three nations [Britain, France, and Germany] capable of conducting such an operation has volunteered to take direct action." France refuses because it has been engaged with Congolese problems since 2003, Britain because it is engaged elsewhere, and Germany because it will only participate in a multinatioal force (such as the delayed rapid response force.)

More and more, the French justice system is seeing the kidnapping and murder of Ilan Halimi as a hate crime: he was attacked because he was a Jew, but was it because of the stereotype of the rich Jew, or an act of antisemitism. Prime suspect, gangster leader Youssouf Fofana, has quit the country. Some German authorities, including Bavaria's Stoiber, are calling for a ban on a Turkish action film, Tal der Woelfe (Valley of the Wolves), that is set in Iraq, is blatantly anti-western and antisemitic, and as some opine, could only worsen relations between Europeans and Arabs, validating a hate-driven war of civilizations. (Armin Laschet, CDU-NRW) Over the weekend, Martin Jacques wrote and editorial in the Guardian that Europeans display a destructivec contempt for other cultures, manifested by reactions to the Danish cartoon controversy, and their Eurocentrism is becoming provincialism.

Interesting read: on the destruction of Tajikastan's last synagogue.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Against the Honor Killings

"Honor is to fight for my sister's freedom."

Slogan used by young Turks in Berlin, who launched a postcard campaign against the honor killings.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

From Tradition to History

After thinking further of the diverging cases of Lorraine and Provence, I feel that there is more that is revelatory than changing fates of two regions in the face of industrialization. Each represents a way of grasping the past: one based on tradition, in which the genre de vie becomes ossified; the other turns tradition into history, making it an object of a distant time--a remnant of the genre de vie that manifested itself in the built environment. The immediacy of tradition is less valuable than its historicization. Holding onto social capital, in the case of Lorraine, becomes a recipe for decline. More of the population must uproot itself (commute) in order to sustain industries that once made the region wealthy. The other, as in the case of Provence, turns social capital into cultural capital, sustaining the population. The cost is that the population is in a permanent relationship with the past that is representative rather than immediate, rarified and preserved rather than lived.

The survival of place becomes evermore dependent on the ability of communities to represent themselves as the products of history. It is as remnants of ways of living that they become attractive to tourists. And despite the alienation caused by tourism, the cultural goods that communities promote are not as easily delocalized (deracinated in the process of globalization) than social goods, such as industry.

Religion and Local Tradition

... it was only in the nineteenth century that the idea of tradition was rediscovered in the Roman Catholic Church, mainly through the work of the Tubingen theologian Johann Adam Moehler. though later in the century biblical studies began to focus on the historical formation of the Christian scriptures and the local contexts and church communities within which they were composed. As a result, the concept of tradition was dramatically enlarged; it was no longer merely the repository of unwritten or oral teachings thought to derive from the Apostles, but a kind of condition or presupposition of scripture itself. For Moehler, tradition is bound up with the operation of the Holy Spirit in the church and it is seen as a dynamic principle which brings about new developments in doctrine and the understanding of scripture and also in the life of the Christian community.

From the point of view of historically based scripture studies, the Christian scriptures were composed within local and regional church communities with their own traditions (and their own theological styles) and the scriptural canon was established by reference to those same communities. In tact, Jesus’ own teaching and ‘way,’ as a variety of reformed Judaism, was itself formed and elaborated within the context of Judaic tradition as it was in his own time. It wold have made no sense outside that tradition. As the Anglican theologian, Stephen Sykes, has said: Jesus did not found Christianity: it ‘was founded by Jesus earliest followers on the foundation of his transformation of Judaism.’

Again, the meaning of scripture was interpreted in reference to the lived experience of the church communities and its general shape and form was continually refined and determined within the same context. If we define ‘tradition’ in this broad sense as encompassing the lived experience of the church communities and as providing the setting for the composition of the scriptural texts and establishing the scriptural canon, then we can say that tradition makes scripture possible. In other words, scripture does not, and cannot, establish its own credentials or its own privileged canonical status, and it does not bear its meaning upon its face.

... The development of doctrine within the church is then largely the work of tradition, taken in its widest sense as the lived experience of the whole church community both in the past and the present. And, if we understand tradition as the operation of various forms of ‘local knowledge’ in particular and regional communities within the church, and not as some kind of Cartesian foundation, we can then appreciate the importance of local knowledge in Christianity.
From Religious Inventions by Max Charlesworth

For Charlesworth, effective religion balances localism and universalism, avoiding sectarianism without surrendering to literalism or legalism. His attention to Catholicism is meant only to be an example, yet still he reveals a Church that allows for diversity of practices in spite of its image of centralization, strict doctrine, and rigid "Papalism."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Rust and Erosion

Collapsing in different ways: two articles show the problems faced by European regions in the face of changing economic circumstances. In Lorraine, the decline of steel manufacting to composite materials and the increased competetiveness of industries in Luxembourg has the region clinging to its glorious past. Residents see Arcelor as the last remnants of a proud and glorious industrial age, while every day, more Lorrains are becoming frontaliers: people who commute to Luxembourg and other neighboring regions to enjoy their economic fortunes.

On the other hand, a study of southeastern France (Provence-Aples-Côtes d'Azur) has shown that patrimony yields greater returns in the form of tourism than the cost of its preservation. Small towns have been able to stave off depopulation. In many cases, cities and towns have not taken full advantage of their cultural goods, as most historic buildings and only kept standing, not developed to give access to tourists.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Germany since Heine

Friday is the 150th year of the death of Heinrich Heine. Perhaps the greatest German poet after Goethe, he died in exile in Paris. It was an inauspicious beginning to German nationalism's relationship with his legacy. Few were willing to embrace him as a poet of national import. He was seen as an outsider, who wrote beautifully in the Germany language (especially as the poet behind Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe), but no German. Even his hometown, Dusseldorf, took a long time before it embraced his legacy, and then with some embarrassment. [I've updates with some new links below.]

Heine (along with Rahel Varnhagen and Fanny Lewald) seemed to represent the ability of German Jews to cast off the burden of the Ancien Regime and move freely through civil society (whereas the truth was probably closer to Heine's friend Karl Marx.) Although he converted to Protestantism, Heine's literature reveals an ongoing affinity for Jewish traditions. Indeed, he contributed to the translation of Jewish narratives into European literary conventions. Some would see his conversion (like so many others) as more of a ticket to social and political freedom rather than an expression of conviction.

Heine was also a German nationalist--at least the idealist type that abounded during "Springtime of Peoples." The striving of the people for liberty, not the hegemony of states, would bring about Germany. Because of his political idealism, he was forced into exile in France, wherefrom he continued his literary career. The poetic cycle, Deutschland, was a return trip to Hamburg, and along the way he witnesses the stifling of German creativity and universal rights under Prussian authority.

His vision of Germany conflicted with those who saw unification as a valorization of ethnicity and power. When he was censored by the federal council of the German Confederation, he wrote a short extract positioning Junge Deutschland (Young Germany) against the hegemony of the state:
"Allow me to point out to you, that you either know what Junge Deutschland is, or you know what the Hegelian school is."
In the same work he wrote something curious. Addressing a charge made by critics, he said,
He claims that we are all Jews, even if no one from Junge Deutschland is acquainted with the Cult of Moses and also no one, with the exception of your obedient servant, carries a drop of this glorious blood ... .
Without shame for his heritage, Heine acknowledged the problem of ethnicity and nationality as nationalism evolved. (Quotes are translated, poorly, by me.) But what he said boldly turned into an apology for his participation in discussion about German nationalism. After the unification of Germany in the kleindeutsch model and the National Liberals conversion to Bismarckian notions of statecraft, Heine (and people who thought like him) became decidely un-German. As Jost Hermand has put it,
The post-1871 German nationalists saw in Heine only an immoral wag, a spineless scribbler without any sense of German nationalist virtues, virtues easily summed up in terms such as homeland, the German temperment, depth of soul, inwardness, a sense of community, comradeship, solidarity. For them, Heine was mrerely an exponent of Western liberalism, a doctine that in their eyes was based on vices of egoism, sensualism, and gossip mongering.

It's not surprising that after WWII, Germans would graps at Heine as they searched for democratic roots on which to rebuild their society. But the tension between ethnicity and nationality still exists. It is difficult for Turks, for instance, to speak about social and cultural problems without referencing their exteriority. The expression of identity can still be an acknowledgement of having an uncertain position in society.
Blog posts on Heine

Updates (February 17, 2006)

Monday, February 13, 2006


Not to become a wiki-apologist, but the Boston Globe has an interesting article on the people who write for the internet's famous site for 'popular' scholarship.
For most Wikipedians, it seems the fun of the site trumps any dark concerns. Although Bill Sherman, 39, of Cambridge, has written articles about British pop culture, he doesn't believe Wikipedia should be considered an authoritative reference. ''I think it has to be taken with a grain of salt," he said. ''It's a handy and fun thing, but nobody should be writing books based on it. It's a giant graffiti board, and should be used as such."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Just a Square (Meme)

The irreverent Sepoy slammed me with this meme this morning. I'm running all day, so my answers are a bit brief:

4 jobs I've had
  • receiver and product manager (classical) at record store
  • receiver at book store
  • math tutor
  • instructor
4 DVDs I can keep watching (I don't have many)
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch
  • Greg the Bunny
  • The General (good ole Buster Keaton)
  • Lost World (silent era original)
4 places I wish I had lived
  • Chimayo, New Mexico
  • Beaune, France
  • Legoland, Denmark
  • Fez
4 TV shows I watch
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Family Guy
  • Colbert Report
  • Amazing Race
4 places I'’ve traveled
  • Lisbon
  • Taroudant, Morroco
  • Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  • Maastricht, Netherlands
4 websites I visit daily
  • Sitemeter (must ... check .... popularity)
  • Le Monde (must ... get ... writing material)
  • Fafblog
  • On the Download

4 foods I love
  • keftas aux oeufs (wheat or meatballs with eggs)
  • Flammkuchen (very thin bread, slathered in cream and cheese)
  • garlicy, salty red chard
  • yellowtail rolls
4 early musical influences
  • Roxy Music (and its variouderivationsns)
  • X
  • Kurt Weill
  • my Boss Chorus pedal
4 bloggers I'’m nudging

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Random Notes

I must be an arrogant fool. I may attempt to read Jose Ortega y Gasset's Meditacion de Europa in Spanish--no English translation exists. If anyone knows of one, please tell me.

Colonialogy--that's the term that Jonathan Dresner wants to coin. The problem, as he sees it, is that what happens on the other side of the imperial relationship is ill considered, probably to justify imperial projects retroactively:
I think we need a new word for the study of colonialism, imperialism and the post-colonial discourses, pro and con. Pro? Who’s in favor of it? Well, this is what makes it interesting, these days: there are a lot of former colonial powers out there whose citizens and leaders, in their heart of hearts, still believe that they accomplished something that was ultimately positive, who still believe that their developmental initiatives and their anti-communist (or anti-capitalist) positions were justified by subsequent developments. This is usually — explicitly or implicitly — intended to mitigate or cancel out any discussions of political repression, economic exploitation, military atrocities or strategic abandonment. Sometimes it’s just good historical sense, but then it usually comes with very careful caveats about not canceling out the other stuff.

What was the cost of the Super Bowl to the city of Detroit? The destruction of the Motown Building (read Detroit Blog here.)

Click here to read more.
Konrad Lawson at Munnin recounts his recent trip to Japan. He covers the conference he attended, the attitudes of Japanese to his presence, tourism, ... . Some very interesting comments about the sport of telling Asians (and Europeans) apart from one another.

Silversmith considers not guilty verdicts in rape cases from the early modern era (as found in the Old Bailey record.) A theory that architecture is a continuation of cliff dwelling (see David Sucher)? Via H-France, the SSRC has set up a website of essays about the Riots in France as seen from the perspective of academics in the social sciences. Brandon has some great links on the cartoon controversy; the best reactions from Arab world can be found at Global Voices Online.

Joel at Far Outliers extracted some bits from this interview of David Hackett Fischer. I was particularly interested in his comments about teaching at Brandeis University. Although it has the reputation of being "the Jewish university," it is mostly secular, with about half the students identifying themselves as Jewish. Indeed, I'd say that attitudes of reform domainte. Nonetheless, I've found that many of the professors have 'converted'--they learned to appreciate Judaism, and even have taken a strong interest in it through their research and publications. (Aside: Although an historian at Brandeis University, I have never met him: at the graduate level, the Americanists and the non-Americanists are in different departments.)

What would Coretta Scott King's funeral been without the radical politics? Probably as lifeless as the Sly and the Family Stone tribute at the Grammys. He even looked bored: he walked before it was all over (but it could have been some other problem.) And someone tell Joss Stone (no relation) that 'Family Affair' is not sexy.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Speaking of cartoons ...

I am struck by the similarities between this recent cartoon in the Washington Post ...

and "Fit for Battle" by George Grosz from 1917 ...

Iconoclasm without Idolatry?

Could sacred Jewish figures be turned into caricatures, as have Muslim figures? This may seem to be a strange question, but considering that some have said that recent depictions of Mohammed in European newspapers are not comparable to antisemtic depictions of Jews, rife with references to the Holocaust, in Arab newspapers, the question has strange relevance. Perhaps there are differences, but it may be because of the historic hostility of Judaism to all representations of the human form. What stable images of the Jewish prophets exist that can be lampooned? Representations of Abraham, Moses and David are Christian in origin (which is to say either religiously Christian or the product of secularists oriented towards Christian cultures. Even Freud went to Michelangelo to find Moses, depicted as a cool rationalists in opposition to the impassioned man described in the Bible.)

Click here to read more.
A Google search of Judaism and iconoclasm produces interesting results: iconoclasm is not a problem for Judaism, it is its nature. Douglas Rushkoff has called iconoclasm one its central tenets:
"Judaism is founded in iconoclasm, a principle especially relevant to a world so hypnotized by its many false idols. Judaism finds its expression in radical pluralism, an assertion that there is no name for God [--] at least none that any human being could conceive. And because it puts human needs above anyone's notion of deity, Judaism is ultimately enacted through the very real work of social justice."
Perhaps this feature, above even monotheism, was more important for Jews in dealing with other civilizations (especially Hellenic and Roman), becoming the major source for interethnic/interfaith tensions. This dimension has been used to explain the lack of a tradition of high art from within Judaism.

The poverty of images does not translate into a lack of descriptions. Much of Jewish mysticism is built on contemplating the few available descriptions of G-d in scripture, notably as the chariot that descends to take Elijah away. But these contemplations, like the original description, were highly unstable, and thus difficult to turn into a permanent image.

(I don't want to suggest that Muslims are hypocritical for opposing depictions of Mohammed. There are two issues, one regarding the rules of representation and the other the defamation of Mohammed. But since there is, in fact, a tradition of depicting Mohammed that lends itself, unfortunately, to the appropriation of his image.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Maus, Sans Sympathy

Muslims had my sympathy when they were angry over the Danish caricature of Mohammed. They lost it when they used their rage to attack people and property. Now that an Iranian newspaper will sponsor a contest to see who can best spoof the Holocaust, when there is already a long tradition of using antisemitic symbols to express hate towards Israelis and Jews, ...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Grafting of Local History

“I didn’t move, the borders did.” Throughout the southwestern US there are variations of this aphorism. It is an affirmation that the place where they have always lived is also El Norte, historically the northern part of Mexico, and that their history cannot be solely contained within American history.

Sharon’s recent post on the nature of local history has me thinking. Most local histories do something familiar: they situate the local in the national, or use the local to as a prism to gain a better understanding of national history. However, it occurs to me that there are types of local history that are difficult to write because they do not conform to the ideal relationship between the local and national. These local histories must contend with complicated dimensions of transnationalism: borderlands, migration, cross-border enterprise and employment, immigrant communities, and cultural exchange.

Communities on the boundaries and frontiers, sometimes annexed by nation-states against their will, have difficulties writing their own histories. The past is filled with pain and conflict, and nationalists are often indifferent to the uncertainty of identity. The norms of nationality have already been established, sometimes in opposition to the facts of ethnicity and race. And yet there is an expectation that the people will act as if they consented to the terms of nationality.

Furthermore, the character of their transnationalism can be difficult to place. Perhaps their endeavors bring them into contact with foreigners on a regular basis. The proximity to national boundaries can bring large immigrant communities. In such arenas, struggles over authenticity can erupt between groups of people even though they are related to one another. Regular contact with foreign elements encourages bilingualism, bi-culturalism, or cultural and economic particularism that are not often tolerated at the national level.

In some cases, a border community can thrive, culturally and economically, because of its cross-border relations. But more often than not, the pain is aggravated by poverty. Because integration is difficult, economic opportunities cannot be exploited. Capital and investment avoid borderlands because of their instability. Seasonal migrations and long-term migrations cast community members far afield, seeking money in foreign places that will be sent home. The space of a communities activities can extend far outside its proper boundaries.

Local histories that are crossed by transnationalism (however it is constituted) must contend with these complicated factors. If done well, they tend to celebrate the peculiar position of the community in the world, but do a average job of showing it as part of the nation.