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Thames, Coromandel, New Zealand, March 2015.

Inner migration/eternal emigration

Internal (or inner) migration is a (relatively disputed) term that has been variously attached to intelligentsia in Nazi Germany, Stalin-era Soviet Union, or other Eastern European countries of the Soviet bloc, in order to describe the withdrawal into the ‘inner self’, or from public life. It is considered a form of passive resistance provoked by the combination of inability to find expression in (largely oppressive and tightly politically controlled) public life and lack of opportunities to emigrate.

Eternal emigration, on the other hand, is a somewhat self-coined term – not that I credit myself with inventing it, but for me it invokes the well-worn trope of ‘travelling scholar’ (or Wandering Jew destined to walk the Earth forever), exile, etc. To be clear, I do not romanticise this form of existence, but the reflection on the combined forces of ‘inner migration’ and ‘eternal emigration’ forms a key motive of both my life and the initial blog that this website grew out of.

In philosophical terms, the duality of ‘inner migration’ and ‘eternal emigration’ is related to Arendt’s dichotomy of vita activa and vita contemplativa – two sides of intellectual and public life. In conceptual, it seeks to query the constant interplay between engagement and withdrawal, or proximity and distance, that I think remains at the foundations of what knowledge, at least in the way I conceive of it, as well as many other things, are about.

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