Location

Panel 03: Basil 206

Start Date

26-10-2012 3:30 PM

End Date

26-10-2012 5:00 PM

Description

The idea of strangers in American culture is not a new one. While they tolerated them for their manpower, early 17th Century Puritans referred to Anglican and non-religious settlers as “strangers”. The later arrival of Baptists, Lutherans, and the “dreaded” Quakers was also grudgingly tolerated. But Puritan tolerance was limited in the same manner of later generations who privileged certain groups of immigrants, mostly Anglo people, while barricading American shores against less “desirable” groups, a policy which resulted in the Emergency Immigration Acts of 1921 & 1924. No matter the need, Catholics, Jews and “infidels” (Native Americans) were never accepted into the larger community. In fact, some historians suggest that the infamous Salem Witch Trials may have been a reaction to the perceived threat from “strangers” outside the Puritan church (Mitchell 2008: 25).

The most current manifestation of strangers in American culture are of course undocumented immigrants who, like the homeless, have become part of the wallpaper of the urban environment, creatures we experience merely as part of the urban landscape through which we pass daily on our way to our “legitimate” business. Should these creatures make their way into our consciousness by accident, our experience of them is too often limited by the social filter to actually recognize them as fellow human beings. They retreat rapidly from our awareness, once again obscured by the stereotype created to preserve our identity, one carefully constructed on the concept of “other”.

Invisibility among strangers is not limited to immigrants, as the work of contemporary artist and immigrant himself, Kryzsztof Wodiczko demonstrates. In a project he has titled Xenology, his term for “the immigrant’s art of survival” (Deutsche 2002: 27), Wodiczko employs his training as an industrial designer to fabricate equipment for those immigrants and refugees who “seek protection from the threat of violence and injustice (Ibid.). His now iconic homeless vehicle can certainly be counted among this work.

My paper is not a sociological treatise on immigration. It is rather an essay on “stranger” as perceived outsider in American (and European) Culture. Opening with a brief power point accompanied by Neil Diamond’s America, the text will consider some commonalities between the role of undocumented immigrants and other variations of stranger in culture. It will close with a brief discussion of an installation by Columbian artist, Doris Salcedo, her Shibboleth, sliced into the floor of the Great Turbine Hall at the new Tate Modern in London.

Share

COinS
 
Oct 26th, 3:30 PM Oct 26th, 5:00 PM

Sharing Strangers’: Strangers in the Village

Panel 03: Basil 206

The idea of strangers in American culture is not a new one. While they tolerated them for their manpower, early 17th Century Puritans referred to Anglican and non-religious settlers as “strangers”. The later arrival of Baptists, Lutherans, and the “dreaded” Quakers was also grudgingly tolerated. But Puritan tolerance was limited in the same manner of later generations who privileged certain groups of immigrants, mostly Anglo people, while barricading American shores against less “desirable” groups, a policy which resulted in the Emergency Immigration Acts of 1921 & 1924. No matter the need, Catholics, Jews and “infidels” (Native Americans) were never accepted into the larger community. In fact, some historians suggest that the infamous Salem Witch Trials may have been a reaction to the perceived threat from “strangers” outside the Puritan church (Mitchell 2008: 25).

The most current manifestation of strangers in American culture are of course undocumented immigrants who, like the homeless, have become part of the wallpaper of the urban environment, creatures we experience merely as part of the urban landscape through which we pass daily on our way to our “legitimate” business. Should these creatures make their way into our consciousness by accident, our experience of them is too often limited by the social filter to actually recognize them as fellow human beings. They retreat rapidly from our awareness, once again obscured by the stereotype created to preserve our identity, one carefully constructed on the concept of “other”.

Invisibility among strangers is not limited to immigrants, as the work of contemporary artist and immigrant himself, Kryzsztof Wodiczko demonstrates. In a project he has titled Xenology, his term for “the immigrant’s art of survival” (Deutsche 2002: 27), Wodiczko employs his training as an industrial designer to fabricate equipment for those immigrants and refugees who “seek protection from the threat of violence and injustice (Ibid.). His now iconic homeless vehicle can certainly be counted among this work.

My paper is not a sociological treatise on immigration. It is rather an essay on “stranger” as perceived outsider in American (and European) Culture. Opening with a brief power point accompanied by Neil Diamond’s America, the text will consider some commonalities between the role of undocumented immigrants and other variations of stranger in culture. It will close with a brief discussion of an installation by Columbian artist, Doris Salcedo, her Shibboleth, sliced into the floor of the Great Turbine Hall at the new Tate Modern in London.