The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

The Displaced Nation’s monthly themes — witty, wacky, wise, all or none of the above?

Before drawing up the charter, as it were, for The Displaced Nation in April, the site’s two Founding Mothers — Kate Allison and myself — and its one Founding Father, Anthony Windram, engaged in some vigorous debate over what the site’s “categories” should be.

We had met through our blogs. What topics did we all have in common?

One of them was easy: cultural discombobulation, to borrow a phrase from Anthony Windram’s blog title. Except we had now come up with a new term: displacement.

Now what do we mean by “displacement” in the context of global travel and residency? My favorite analogy is to an old-fashioned fruit slot machine — but where each fruit is assigned a national identity. I suspect, for instance, that my two colleagues, both of whom are Brits who are living in the U.S., sometimes have days when they spin the reels and get two gooseberries (British fruit) and one cranberry (American fruit) — meaning they’re feeling a lot more British than American. Whereas for me — an American who has lived in both the UK and Japan — I’ll often get one cranberry, one gooseberry and one mikan (Japanese fruit), an outcome that makes my head spin, as I simply don’t know where or who I am. That, btw, is what’s known as hitting the jackpot in our displaced world!

Thus the category What a Displaced World was born, the default category for most of our articles.

Speaking of fruits, food was another obvious category. It was something that had drawn the three of us together in the first place. Indeed, Kate Allison’s blog — Marmite & Fluff — even has food (two of her favorites) in its title.

For this category, we came up with It’s Food! — which, if less than original, we hope does the job thanks to the exclamation mark.

Around the time we spoke about starting this blog, Kate was beginning to serialize a fictional account of a trailing spouse, Libby, on her blog. She proposed moving Libby’s Life to the new site, and we came up with the category It’s Fiction! Libby now shares that real estate with our posts consisting of interviews with novelists who’ve written about the expat life or travel.

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and the category Random Nomads sprung out of our decision to have me continue the interviews with expats and repats I’d started on my blog, Seen the Elephant. If “nomad” was obvious, the three of us felt that “random” worked well with it, since we’re constantly bumping into — actually as well as virtually — the kind of people who strike us as being interesting because of their displacement.

As for the Displaced Hall of Fame, this came about because of Anthony Windram’s desire to explore the writings of famous people who’ve been displaced both in centuries past and our own time. While he has a bent for the classics — and has chosen to feature literary giants such as Vladimir Nabokov and James Joyce in his posts — Kate and I have occasionally expanded the category to include celebrity types, ranging from the actress Mia Wasikowska (a Third Culture Kid) to the model India Hicks to the chef Jamie Oliver.

The “monthly theme” idea

But then once the blog got underway, we decided that in addition to these categories, we enjoyed organizing our posts around monthly themes, rather like a magazine (the fashion issue, the cheap eats issue, the summer issue, etc.).

This came about rather by accident as Kate Middleton and Prince William’s nuptials took place around the time we launched, prompting us to do a series of Royal Wedding posts focusing on what a global event this quintessentially British occasion had become.

Other initial themes were:

  • Domestic expats — the idea that you didn’t have to go abroad to feel displaced (apt in these economically troubled times), anchored by Kate Allison’s The domestic expat.

But then something (we’re not quite clear what) happened, and our thinking morphed again. We started exploring themes based on particular characters, historical and literary, that have inspired us, as well as books:

And September will be — wait for it! — Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance month, a series of posts inspired by Robert M. Pirsig’s 1974 philosophical novel.

Some say they like the way we cover themes, while we suspect others find it rather zany.

How about you, what do you think? And if you’re pro-theme, can you suggest any you might like us to cover?

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post on films and TV series that take vacations to other lands.

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to subscribe to The Displaced Dispatch, a weekly round up of posts from The Displaced Nation, plus some extras such as seasonal recipes and occasional book giveaways. Sign up for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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5 responses to “The Displaced Nation’s monthly themes — witty, wacky, wise, all or none of the above?

  1. Piglet in Portugal August 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    The themes were def whacky! Fruit machine or fruitcake? he he… 🙂 whatever, I enjoy reading your posts even if at times I do not grasp the concept as they are a little ‘off the wall’ 🙂

    • ML Awanohara August 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      Thanks, PiP. Yes, I thought of calling our themes a bit fruity — but wondered if that could be taking the analogy a tad far? Apparently not… It’s useful to hear that you don’t always grasp the concept. I guess we tend towards being “conceptual artists,” allowing concepts to take precedence over more practical concerns (like, what’s in this post for me?). A better balance may be called for in future. In any event, that’s something to strive for… 🙂

  2. X-cultures (@xcultures) August 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    New to Displaced Nation, but this post definitely has definitely got me curious – looking forward to reading more. I’d say zany … but in a unique and original (i.e. good) way. Future suggestions … how about Star Wars, Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, Chronicles of Narnia, Gulliver’s Travels, 1984, On the Road, Don Quixote, Invisible Cities?

    • ML Awanohara August 17, 2011 at 9:20 pm

      Welcome to our fair land! We hope you’ll find your curiosity satisfied, and we promise to do our best not to go too far out on a limb. That said, were we to follow the first two of your suggestions — Star Wars and the Hitchhikers Guide — we may end up blasting into outer space. (But that’s okay. For some of us expats, outer space is the only frontier left.)

      I think I can speak for Kate and Anthony in saying we are grateful for your wealth of suggestions. I for one never would have thought of Invisible Cities, but what a fascinating idea!

      Thank you!!! And keep those suggestions comin’! 🙂

    • Kate Allison August 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      Absolutely I’m grateful! Hitchhiker’s Guide… Brilliant. I can hear the Displaced Q already – what’s the essential item for travel, apart from a towel? Thanks, X-cultures, and welcome!

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