Thursday, October 25, 2007

Second Generation Burgh Diaspora

Reading fellow Burgh Diasporian Jim Morris' latest blog post about his travel experience in Korea reminds me of the challenge of mapping the knowledge about international migration onto a domestic landscape. Dean Morris appreciates the difficulty second-generation immigrants face when they return to the homeland of their parents:

I also realized how hard it must be for American children of Asians to visit these countries. They look like natives so are expected to speak and act like them. If their parents haven't made extraordinary efforts to acculturate them in the home country's ways, they are likely to encounter real difficulties when they visit.

Just to reinforce this observation, read Alan Paul's discussion of how Chinese expatriates manage their dual identities while living in China. Would second-generation Pittsburgh expatriates face similar obstacles if they returned to the city of their parents?

I don't know the answer to that question, but I figure that a direct bloodline to the Burgh won't buy you insider status. There might be a liminal experience of having a romantic attachment to Pittsburgh, but the recognition that the city or neighborhood doesn't love you back (at least in the same way).

I'm a Pittsburgher first by choice and second by marriage. While I appreciate the region's parochial and provincial charms, I also realize that particular place can never be my home. You can see the same tension in Mike Madison's post about suburban and urban entitlements in Pittsburgh. For me, there is only New Pittsburgh. And that's why newcomers are so important to Pittsburgh's future.

1 comment:

Abacus said...

I definitely fit this description. My parents are from Pittsburgh -- my dad was raised in East Liberty and my mom in Homestead -- and my mom's side of the family still mostly resides in the region. I spent summers in Pittsburgh, and have considered it home despite being raised in El Paso, Texas.

In my experience, I've had the opportunity to live the best of both worlds. When I need to be a 'burgher, I refer to my long lineage in the region. When it's best to be an outsider, I cite my Texas upbringing.

In fact, I think this is a great mix for those who are looking to affect change here. Perhaps its because those who are not from here mostly choose to be here, while natives feel like Pittsburgh has been forced upon them.

If you look at the profile of regional leadership -- and I am exempting local politicians from the leadership label -- I think you'll find far more non-natives than you might expect.