Note from the Editors
AT THE TURN OF THE LAST CENTURY, ZYGMUNT BAUMAN PROCLAIMED THAT MANKIND WAS ENTERING A PHASE OF “LIQUID MODERNITY.” Humans, he wrote, would become ever more nomadic, and their moral and social identities would be uprooted.
In a world where our job, social status and even political or sexual orientation is perpetually up for grabs, identity becomes as footloose as the traveler who seeps through porous borders and merges with different, often distant waters. It is a world where more and more of us struggle to feel like we belong as we are pulled apart by two opposing forces: on one hand, the sudden freedom to choose the life we want to live, on the other, the need for greater security and stability as traditional support networks rapidly disappear, filling us with sudden existential dread. It is a world of adventure and freedom, writes the sociologist Adrian Favell, but equally of fragmentation and loneliness. Almost two decades later, has Bauman’s liquid dream come true?
Facing few legal constraints to mobility, a growing number of intra-European migrants may indeed be getting a taste of the truly “liquid” life. But how many of us are actually willing or able to sacrifice rootedness (in the form of family ties, job security and local social networks) to gain freedom and autonomy? Granted, the world has become increasingly interconnected and interdependent, and a nascent group of global nomads—those that David Goodhart calls Anywheres—are reaping the fruits of globalization one traineeship abroad at a time. In some ways, these super-mobile, highly educated cosmopolitans represent a novel type of citizen: a hybrid mishmash of highly local and highly global worldviews and attachments, and interspersing, overlapping identities. They identify as Londoners, Berliners, Madridians and, more often than not, Europeans. And they live and breathe across borders, through (digital) transnationalism and by consuming food, clothing and culture on an international scale.
But the whirlwind of globalization that has been spiraling us upward (downward?) since the 1990s is facing its greatest global challenge to date. Significant chunks of the Somewheres—working and middle-class inhabitants of smaller cities and rural areas—have seen their purchasing power diminish and jobs displaced, while open borders enable less expensive labor to flow into “their” job sectors. Now, the status quo to move and live freely across Europe’s borders has either been rejected (Brexit), or is under significant strain, as the Visegrad countries refuse to cooperate on migration, and the Schengen area has become a criss-cross of recently reinstated borders and fences.
This issue finds itself at the intersection of movement and identity. Does who we are depend on where we are, or where we come from? Can our conceptions of ourselves and our place in the world shift as swiftly and fleet-footedly as our actual physical locations can? Its title is “Uprooted”, but is it even fair of us to presuppose the importance of “roots” to identity?
The collection of articles in this, the first edition of Are We Europe magazine in 2019, explore the history of the restless movement of peoples in Europe; the ways that modern movement of peoples imports on social struggles, like feminism; what the slow dripping away of a nation’s youthful best and brightest means for those they leave behind; one photo series shows the fragility of relationships that might be impacted by Brexit while another presents snapshots of Europe’s hottest external border points; poetry seeks to cut into the role of language in our relationships with ourselves; and an interview with a rising voice on “race” and identity asks the question, who owns the right to speak in what space?
We hope these articles provoke as many questions as they might provide answers. And as always, we appreciate your thoughts and feedback, which can be shared with us casually, or as a letter to the editor for our next issue, at email@example.com.
Kyrill Hartog & Alexander Hurst
— This article appears in
Are We Europe #3 : Uprooted