One young woman who shares my last name (but unrelated) was teaching in a college in US. One day she saw the college president to tell him that she was quitting to return to Dhaka. The president could not believe it, but she meant what she had said. I can give a long list of people who could break the temptation of overseas living and returned home. Others stayed but their hearts were in Bangladesh, their bodies were overseas. As globalisation deepens, people will live in multiple localities. And they will have multiple jobs. A friend of fine, a Kolkata-born economist educated in US has worked his way up to be a professor in a mid-sized US university and now helping set up a private university in Bangladesh (Chittagong) using his experience of setting up one in Venezuela.
I was born in Erie, live near Denver, and my heart is in Pittsburgh. Many people struggle to understand my Pittsburgh obsession, but the Nomads of Globalization all share a similar experience. What might this growing class of cosmopolites mean for the future of cities?
We can easily overstate the novelties of a more deeply interconnected world. Kenichi Ohmae heralded the End of the Nation State and Salman Rushdie spelled out the threat of transnationalism in The Satanic Verses. But the agents of change are still a small vanguard and The Order of Things is far from transformed. But we shouldn't dismiss a new understanding of home because of a lack of overwhelming evidence.
In 2008, the Burgh Diaspora will become an important part of shaping the latest incarnation of New Pittsburgh. The region shall emerge as an innovation hub for urban policy and serve as an economic development model for shrinking cities around the world. Pittsburgh's great strength is the exodus of talent, forever vexed by the potential of the city. Pittsburgh inspires great passion, both love and hate (often at the same time). Does anyone quietly leave without a trail of drama?
Pittsburghers are not unique living in economic exile and we can find impressive urban nationalism in some unexpected corners. However, any attempt to network a diaspora is beholden to the context. The motivation to help one's homeland must overcome the comforts of success in a new location. I believe that the gravity of Pittsburgh is such that expatriates will seek the opportunities that their struggling home currently presents. All the Burgh Diaspora needs is an invitation to do so and we at IntoPittsburgh intend to provide it.
Happy 250th birthday, Pittsburgh. To the city's future and its great Diaspora. Cheers.