When answering the question of where are you from, simply by answering with North Italy (in my case), I am presenting a set of stereotypes and prejudices (not necessarily negatives), an idea of what Italy is, which might and might not represent who I am.
Our conversation started from Taiye Selasi Ted Talk "Don't ask where I'm from, ask where I'm a local". She asks how can a human being come from a concept, the concept of the nation? It's a relatively recent concept, and in Italy's case, unification occurred in 1861. Italy holds a wide cultural variation within its territory and each region has its cultural characteristics. That is its beauty for me, and that's what makes Italy so culturally rich in terms of language, history, art, and cuisine.
Taiye Selasi argues that countries are not a fixed concept, as cultures are constantly changing, adapting, and disappearing, countries can cease to exist, fail, be born, expand or contract. Is this the right question to pose for understanding a human being?
I have only lived in two cities in Italy and visited a few more. I never traveled south of Rome. I feel I don't know my county very well and stand for it. When answering "I'm from Italy" I'm privileging a fictional idea, the singular country, over my real human experience.
Of course, the concept of nation and having grown up in Italy shaped who I am and my experience. I might not have experienced Italy in its entirety, but despite where I am a local, the concept of the nation creates some common experiences. I might not know how life is in a rural village in Sicily but I and a hypothetical 23-year-old share the same language (when we do not speak our dialects), we probably had a similar school program, studied history from the same point of view, we supported the same national team, and we were fed by the same bad television. This created a bunch of common experiences no matter where we experienced life. But is it enough to define ourselves as Italians?
Taiye Selasi states:
"A few places shape my experience, and my experience is where I'm from.
What if we asked, instead of where are you from, where are you a local?"
If you ask me where are you a local, I'll answer that I've spent the last four year in the multicultural city of Bozen where Italian and German culture coexists. Maybe making you understand my willingness to move to Berlin (another highly multicultural city) and improve my German and experience different points of view.
"The difference between where are you from and where are you a local isn't the specificity of the answer but the intention of the question. It allows us to shift our focus on where real life occurs."
The place where you are a local should become an inner landscape so that the imagination can take over that place and make it its theater.
Don't ask where I'm from, ask where I'm a local | Taiye Selasi