More Post-geographic
than Multinational.

A conversation


DOES THIS SPEAK TO ANYONE ELSE?

I stumbled upon the term “post-geographic” in a review I read on the book Zero History by the fiction writer William Gibson. This contemporary concept suddenly gave me a framework in which I could make sense out of several thoughts and emotions I have been developing since I moved away from Lebanon. It answered questions like: Why is it that I feel like I am simultaneously in Doha and Baltimore when my friend living in Qatar and I are continuously exchanging data? It made me realize that geography is no longer the frame of reference that defines relationships. The concept of post-geography remains visually abstract yet logical in my mind. I currently live between several timezones since almost all my Lebanese friends are scattered across the continents. Maintaining contact in the face of this dispersed geography has become a conscious effort supported by technology. The collapse of different geographic locations in my phone is a reflection of a stateless status of the Lebanese diaspora.

NOT NECESSARILY

  • Lynn Abdouni

    Oct 12 (12 days ago)
    to me, Omar, Gino, Joanna

    o_O i never really thought about it this way. i like the idea. now i will fight it.
    Of course geography still matters. it’s not the same any more i give you that, but having people of our generation dispersed around the globe (and those people might, like yourself, not identify with a country which is something i want to poke too) cannot come close to annihilating the barriers of geography. I mean there are many more elements needed to create a sense of place or identity or whatever makes you feel you’re somewhere. people who’ve moved out in the last 10 years in several countries isn’t enough to cut it.
    You’ve used two words: identity and representation. And we’re arrogant enough to think that we fully choose both. No we don’t. identity has two parts. The part that you grow the part that you are born into (despite it being arbitrary). If you’re born and raised in a tin hut neighborhood and gone on to be a famous writer in Paris, the tin hut neighborhood part of you is not gonna magically vanish, no matter how ashamed you are of it and no matter how different you are from the people who live in it. the tin hut neighborhood gave you traits and circumstances that triggered you to become a writer in Paris. You will always be the writer in Paris, hailing from the tin hut neighborhood.
    Same goes for the idea of representation, especially in the case of Lebanon. we cannot choose what is our icon. We have so much diversity of people and ideas (some we love some we despise but still) we cannot even begin to pick one thing that represents Lebanon.
    That being said, i feel that some lebanese diasporas, for example in Michigan and Ohio, created their own ‘country’. Now the parent copy Lebanon because this is home for them. The kids that were born there though, grow up within the copied community in the US (whether they choose to love it or hate it doesn’t matter. it becomes a part of their values). If their parents don’t actively take them to Lebanon frequently, they cannot really relate to it the way you and i relate to it.
    Do you really feel that you live in Doha and Baltimore simultaneously? I mean.. i don’t really feel i’m ever in two places at once. I feel like my Argentinean cousin and I are on one front and my other cousins are on another (since they’re in Lebanon and we’re not), and i use whatsapp all the time and send/ receive plenty of pictures which keeps me and other people up to date with one another but i never felt that the internet was able to make me feel like i’m elsewhere.

  • Joanna Douba

    Oct 13 (11 days ago)
    to Lynn, me, Omar, Gino

    I’m going to attempt to comment on/reply to your questions before I read the replies, because I don’t want my initial opinion to be affected by anyone else’s. They may raise interesting points (knowing Abdouni, I’m sure she will), but I’d rather address them after I’ve given my initial two cents.
    “What represents nations today?” I think it’s a very difficult question to answer. Yesterday, while my husband and I were visiting his cousin and his cousin’s wife, we were discussing the different nationalities that live in Saudi Arabia, and how each one behaves. If I’m being extremely honest with myself, it was quite the racist conversation. Not racist in terms of us hating on everyone else except our own.. racist in terms of us giving each people a label or more. I think when we left Lebanon, the people of each nation became representative of that nation. We see each nation through the actions of its people. Obviously, this is incredibly unfair, as there are different kinds of people in each and every country, which is a point that I was trying to convey yesterday. Which leads me to the question, how are we, as Lebanese people, representing our country abroad today? I can’t even begin to answer that question without expressing my deep-seeded anger at how Lebanese people conduct themselves in and outside of Lebanon, so I’m going to leave it at that. I struggle with the notion of “nation” having been born to an ardent supporter of Arab Nationalism (though it would have made sense if I didn’t struggle, right?) It’s really a back and forth between my nostalgic views inherited from my father, and my belief that all of this “nation” stuff is really quite silly and supremacist in the “us” vs “them” category. Is there a real need for nations at the end of the day? I don’t think so, but I’m sure I’ll be labeled as Utopian.
    That took a turn towards the political, as often things to do with me. “Does geography matter anymore when the internet has scrambled our sense of it?” I don’t know what you mean by “matter”, but living in Riyadh makes me very very aware of geography to be honest with you. It’s definitely scrambled in the sense that every day, I talk to my friends who are each in a corner of the world, and it definitely makes me feel closer to them. It makes me wonder how people used to live their lives without being connected to each other at least by a regular old-fashioned telephone. Was their experience of the place they were in richer? Were the connections and friendships they made in their new locations more solid as opposed to if they had been able to connect with their already existing loved ones? Probably. But when you’re an expat, you want to hold on to these friendships you already have, because at some point, they are the only thing you really have. In this sense, geography doesn’t really matter, as long as your face is buried in your phone and/or laptop, “whatsapping” your family and “skyping” with your friends. But then you take a look outside your living room window, and you see a wall. And you realize you’re in Riyadh, where privacy is bigger than sliced bread, and you’re not allowed to see what’s beyond your window. And you become very much aware of geography all over again.
    “Do you identify yourself by the place you were born in, grew up in, or currently live in?” I have no idea. I used to think that I didn’t, and that, as you said, being born in Lebanon doesn’t give it the automatic right to my sense of belonging. Then I went to the supermarket, and I found myself automatically picking up Lebanese products because I wanted to support my country’s exports. I stood there dumbfounded for a minute, wondering what suddenly made it feel like *my country*. I’m still trying to figure that out to be honest with you, as I embark on the first step towards the master plan that my husband and I have, to get ourselves, and our future children, a different passport, and “nationality”. Lebanon has become so distorted, that it’s really quite difficult to identify myself with what it has become. Before I left, I had nothing but hate towards it (to the great displeasure of my father). It seems that my set of beliefs, and the collective set of beliefs in Lebanon are at odds, and none of us are willing to compromise. And to be honest, I struggle with this, and the fact that I can’t seem to have a place to which I belong anymore. Lebanon has merely become that troublesome country where my family and the very few friends who are left there live. And it makes me wonder if I will ever feel like I belong in the place where we will settle down, wherever that may be.
    “To what extent does the artificial extension of our relationship feel real?” As much as I want it to feel real, it’s hanging in limbo between real and fake at the moment for me. My brother called me from home the other day, and for the duration of the call, I felt like I was back there in Lebanon, at the office, and I’m going to go home any minute and see my family again. Maybe it was the fact that he called me over the phone, and not Skype (which is terribly laggy when calling Lebanon), that made it feel temporarily so real and immediate. But it’s still not real enough, as you said. So I guess I’ll stick to my initial answer.
    Regards,
    Joanna Douba-Jabak

    Lynn Abdouni
    Oct 13 (11 days ago)
    to me, Omar, Gino, Joanna

    ahamm shi el “regards” bil ekhir ya Douba-Jalak

  • Omar El Bizri

    Oct 16 (8 days ago)
    to Lynn, Joanna, me, Gino

    Hello all!
    A bit of background so that everyone is aware where I’m coming from. I grew up till I was 5 in Canada, before moving back to Lebanon. Up till that point, I always felt that the latter was home, in the sense that I would be eager to visit it once a year, or would make sure to talk in Arabic as much as I could. My parents were just as keen to make sure I didn’t get disconnected with my “roots”, solely speaking to me in Arabic and popping that Majida El Roumi cassette/ video cassette as frequently as possible. And while that made me feel Lebanese, Canada was beyond a doubt Home.
    That dichotomy became very apparent when I moved back. I refused to let go of the idea of Home in Canada, and would actually invert the behaviors I had adopted there. So instead of talking Arabic, I would be proud to speak in English and to roll my “r”s in French. Instead of watching Majida El Roumi, I would replay tapes of shows I used to watch in Canada. Canada as a nation represented Home, Lebanon was more of a idea that I had found convenient to identify with abroad.
    As I grew up, things didn’t change that quickly. I would travel quite often and I got me exposed to a lot of different places very early on. For some reason though, I always felt that I could identify myself more with these new places, than back in Lebanon, even if that place was as random as Bratislava. Then I moved to New York.
    Besides the obvious peculiarity of New York, things were different this time because I would be staying for a longer period of time. And here is where my sense of belonging to Lebanon started to surface, and that through very particular things that are very stereotypically Lebanese: Labneh, Zaatar, listening to Fairuz, seeing that MEA plane in CDG while connecting.
    When I moved back to the Middle East, even though I jumped back and forth between Riyadh and Beirut every weekend, I had lost this sense of attachment to Lebanon. For me now, New York is Home.
    My point. I have identified myself to different nations/places at different points of my life. At each point, I would feel that the place that represented me was somewhere else. The reality is however, they are all a part of what I am today, and in that sense post geography is spot on.
    The flipside of this though, is that the internet scrambling everything did not make me long for the last place any less. I wasn’t looking for the superficial but for the real. I can Skype with Ziad all day, he’s still not physically next to me (neither is he in Qatar for that matter) . I can find loopholes to watch Netflix and listen to Pandora, but I’m in Riyadh not in the States. In that sense, geography still very much matters today, if anything for the sake of authenticity.
    As a last note, and though slightly on a tangent, I think the comment (you can start from the top, the part in yellow is the insightful one) in this link , gives an interesting point on how geographical lines are not that blurred, or at least need a while to be

    Cheers!
    O

    Lynn Abdouni
    Oct 21 (3days ago)
    to me, Omar, Gino, Joanna

    Just so we’re clear here. by identifying are we saying identifying with a place as a home or as a part of who we are? Because having a place set as “against your principles” isn’t enough to disqualify it as your home. at least that’s what i think
    I was gonna have Ziad for breakfast but then I remembered something, sense of identity could be greatly modified by places other than home. I have never been to Argentina (well once, but i was 2 years old and we were there for weeks so it doesn’t count). My grandmother and her sisters were born and raised Argentinean and a lot of practices infiltrated our family. Most of us drink Matte almost every day, there are several argentinean dishes that are regularly made, we refer to our uncles and aunts as “tio and tia” and spanish is spoken as frequently as arabic in family gatherings. I never really thought about it as identifying with the country as home, but these bits and pieces of the culture just happen to evoke familiarity because of who practiced them not because of what they are.
    So to go back maybe the space-related things that Ziad says represent him are not really space-related qualities. Perhaps they’re just aspects and these aspects he just happened to find at a specific place.

    Lynn Abdouni
    Oct 22 (2days ago)
    to me, Omar, Gino, Joanna

    Omar* not Ziad
    (Blushing wildly and playing with jacket buttons)