Cultural codes and migration

An article by Adam Jonathan Gøricke and Sebastian Heer Johansen.

Fabrizio Eva who’s a political geographer and professor in Venice, held a presentation at the ISISS, the 9th of November. Mr. Eva began his presentation by introducing the illusion of free will, when it comes to picking a seat. He used the audience to make the example that the first person can freely choose his seat. The next person entering the room, will either sit down next to the first one, or sit down away from the first one – depending on their relationship. If they are good friends he is likely to sit down next to his friend, and if they are complete strangers he will sit away from him. People’s roles will also decide where you sit. The teacher sits in front, the students taking notes will have their computer and so on. These shared behaviors and roles naturally divide people into groups. The shared behavior of such a group is called an iconography.

People are in the same way affected by these unspoken rules, when it comes to moving. They move to places that share their language, culture, or interests. Such a place with shared cultural traits is called a cultural island. People generally move for several reasons; invasions, discoveries, commerce and of course, migration. 

In modern society, people also have a tendency of moving to the west – its riches and wealthy lifestyle attracts eastern foreigners. In the years following the second world war, Europe was devastated. People from the former Soviet Union immigrated to western countries like Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, while people from those countries moved even further west and so on. 

Fabrizio Eva talked about the current refugee-situation. In this case people are moving because of a threat in their homeland. The amount of people seeking refuge is a big problem now and the people have the feeling the refugees and immigrants mainly seek residence in the west. However, statistics show that Arabic countries take in a huge number of refugees as well, so the answer to “why don’t ‘their’ Arab friends take them?” is easily answered; they do take care of them.

Cultural drift is a term used when discussing change in iconographies and other habits in a cultural island. There was a strong influence from countries like the US, affecting the culture all over the world. The example, which was presented here, pertained to the ‘clothing-revolution”.

In the 20’s women wore long dresses and corsets, which was the concept of beauty at that time. In the 60´s the idea of beauty had completely changed into a more liberated fashion-style, where the dresses had become shorter, showing more skin. Everywhere, people adopted a cultural influence from the western world. It created an image of progressiveness, liberation, and freedom when it comes to your clothing. The changes peaked in the 1960’s as the result of an increase in women’s rights. Their new looks expressed freedom as a contrast to the 1920’s women, who were caged in many layers of garments. These changes represented the changes in a woman’s role in society.

At the end of the day, people will always be on the move, and our cultural codes will be ever changing. We must learn how to adapt and deal with it as we go. Our gaze can be caging to some, and our behavior offensive. We should keep trying to rid ourselves of prejudices and accept the cultural norms, different from our own.