Lecture | 19 June 2018 | Tropenmuseum
The final lecture of RCMC Distinguished Fellow, Ghassan Hage took place on June 19, 2018.
“You are, in yourself, two roads…”: on the diasporic condition
Sitting on the second floor veranda of Georges’ house, Lilianne is ‘reading’ Jo’s cup of coffee, intensely scrutinizing the coffee grounds left at the bottom of the cup. ‘Ahead of you are two roads’ she says to Jo. Mona and Georges, Jo’s sister and brother start laughing. ‘you’re sure it’s not three?’ says Georges in a mocking tone…‘Don’t worry about him, keep going’ Jo tells Lilianne. As if to show how unaffected by Georges’ sarcasm she is, Lillianne repeats her opening sentence: ‘Ahead of you are two roads.’ ‘Both roads seem to point to the same place’ She continues, ‘but the choice is difficult.’ She stops and looks at Jo: ‘You are facing a particularly difficult situation here for you don’t even seem to have a choice.’ She takes a drag on her cigarette. ‘One road seems long and full of turns but with very few obstacles. The other is shorter… yes… (she scrutinizes the bottom of the cup again) … but it seems very risky and dangerous.’ Jo’s mum couldn’t help interfering: ‘must be the road to Beirut’. But Lilianne is in no mood for jokes. She is looking at Jo very seriously: ‘You have to be very careful. For the danger is not just on the road. The danger is in you. When I look here, I see you. But you are not on either of these two roads.’ ‘They are in you. You are, in yourself, the two roads’ (enteh beenafsik el’ tari’eyn) she said finishing what began as a classical routinized fortune-telling discourse on this unusual and mysterious note… She put the cup of coffee back on the tray in front of her as if exasperated by what she just said... I would not have made much more of this had Jo not replied ‘All my life I’ve been two roads’ (tool ‘imreh tari’eyn)… Slowly, this sense of heading towards or being in two and on some rare occasions three, places at the same time that has been communicated to me several times was shaping into a key feature of what I was calling the Diasporic condition.
Professor Ghassan J. Hage (1957) is the University of Melbourne’s Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He is best known for his work on the enduring presence of race in our contemporary world. Hage’s earlier work centers on the experience of nationalism, racism and multiculturalism among White Australians. In White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society (1998) he explores the desire for a white nation lurking in even the most cherished liberal Western ideals. He has also written on the political dimensions of critical anthropology. Professor Hage’s most recent publication, Is Racism an Environmental Threat?, is concerned with the intersection between racism and the ecological crisis. He is currently finishing an ethnographic book on the transnational culture of the Lebanese diaspora.