A Home Away From Home

Take a few minutes to imagine that you were transported to a completely new location. This new location provides you certain essentials that your old location couldn’t, but lacks familiarity with anything you’ve grown accustomed to since birth. Although this new location lacks the foods you enjoy eating, doesn’t seem to include anyone who looks like you, can’t provide entertainment that you understand or enjoy, and is impossible to interact with due to language barriers — you’re forced to call this new place your home.

This is a reality that most immigrants must face every day after leaving their country for the hope of a better life.

Luckily, immigrants residing in Jackson Heights are able to get a little taste of their home country and seek out some level of familiarity. Hispanics can enjoy street food from vendors that speak their language and serve fresh home-cooked meals. South Asians can walk around in their traditional clothing without feeling ostracized. Nepali’s can walk into a law office and comfortably voice their needs to a native-tongue representative that can truly understand them. Although they’ll continue to face difficulties as they assimilate to the larger American culture, they are as close to home as they can be when they come back to Jackson Heights.

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Pharmacy with Spanish-speaking clerks and pharmacists

Despite fleeing persecution from their home country as a result of historical oppression and colonialism, immigrant residents in Jackson Heights must relive it through the form of neocolonialism with the commercialization of diversity and the migration of non-immigrants. Rosi Braidotti & Maria Hlavajova’s Posthuman Glossary defines Neocolonialism as the “…ongoing persistence of colonial traces as well as new hegemonic formations” (279). In other words, colonial powers are able to assert themselves using diffusive forms of economic, environmental, and cultural supremacies. Although the caucasian, non-immigrant population is not the majority in Jackson Heights, the erasure of immigrant culture and shift in developmental interests by government and business highlight traces of neocolonialism in Jackson Heights.

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New coffee shop tailored to non-immigrant community

As a result of the shifting economic and developmental interests in Jackson Heights, local small business owners must figure out how they can serve the very people who are oppressing them in order to survive. As a result, the locality and authenticity of their services become commodified. Braidotti and Hlavajova’s Posthuman Glossary defines Alienation as when “…the product of our work becomes a mere commodity, rather than some thing of shared social use…when we think of ourselves as our price, or as our marketability” (28). Thus, it can be said that when culture becomes commercialized, immigrants are forced to become alienated from themselves.

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This reflection allowed me to get to the root of why the commercialization of diversity and culture is truly a precarity for the immigrant residents of Jackson Heights. In the Mattering section of Posthuman Glossary, Braidotti and Hlavajova’s discussion of matter as “…performative because it suggests that discrete entities and the meanings attached to them emerge within, rather than precede, the relations that constitute them…” (245). Using this notion of matter, my pictures, videos, and recordings will represent different forms of “performative matter” that contribute to my precarity. Overall, my media will illustrate the Neocolonialism and Alienation faced by immigrants as a result of the commercialization of diversity in Jackson Heights.

  • Mahin Rahaman
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~ by mahinrahaman on October 11, 2018.

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