Treading Water in Sweden

The universe of the social other is ambiguous, according to Julia Kristeva. As an immigrant I face a multitude of abject non-objects including overarching issues of citizenship, racism, discrimination and exclusion. Then there are smaller, perhaps personal, issues such as not understanding a culture’s humor and cultural references, issues that put a damper on social intercourse and person-to-person contact. My ex-husband, Swedish, used to ask why I laughed when with American friends, but not when with him and his friends. “Not getting” a culture’s jokes may appear to be a minor issue, but it enhanced my sense of being an outsider. Seen through Kristeva’s eyes, the outsider is impelled by the fluidity of these non-tangible borders to the abject to continuously tread water in a search for solid ground from which to form an identity.

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