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					                               XII IAPh Symposium
                      International Association of Women Philosophers
                          Rome, august 31– september 3 2006
        http://host.uniroma3.it/dipartimenti/filosofia/Iaph/english/sche
                                   dule.htm

Mara Mauri Jacobsen

ESCAPING AND RETURNING: SUSPENDED LIVES BETWEEN CONTINENTS

I was born in Mantua, studied philosophy in Milan, participated in the movement of
1968, and lived, since the very beginning, the experience of a group, that of Lotta
Continua, going from militant work at Alfa Romeo to the editorial room of the Lotta
Continua newspaper. I became a feminist participating in the activities of La Casa
delle Donne in Via Col di Lana in Milan, going through the self-consciousness
experience and a project, that of living together in a house of women, which was my
main point of reference for a few years. Then, at the beginning of the eighties came
the long-thought decision to leave, to look elsewhere and in other ways, for a
possibility of meaning which at the time was eluding me, both in politics and in
teaching; also, our experience with the “house of women” , which had lasted three
years, had exhausted itself. Together then, we came to the realization that we
needed a break and some distance, that we needed to try our own paths, which
would necessarily be different. For me, it meant leaving Italy for a year, which then
became a lifetime, landing first in San Francisco, then moving to Berkeley, going
from houses and jobs mainly with American women, to marriage, to a doctorate at
the University of California at Berkeley where I am currently teaching, to the sharing
of itineraries and projects with other women who, like me, live their lives between
Italy and the United States.

It is this experience that I would like to share, the “after” of the journey and of the
search which becomes exile, suspension, uprooting, with returns that are never
returns but instead the recovery of the reasons for these new departures, in a
continuous oscillation between belonging and estrangement, between the here and
the elsewhere of a female subjectivity that may find only in displacement its way of
being; displacement as a female condition, consciously or unconsciously exasperated
in a choice of life that cuts, or makes precarious, the familiar references of friends
and family, which are then renewed and rebuilt when far away, giving space to other
references and ties. I would like to explore the common traits of these itineraries of
escape towards the unknown, of these itineraries of attraction or simply addiction to
distance. I would like to examine what is there of positive and negative in the
individual perceptions of lives caught between two worlds, and how past history is
remembered and relived in the present, and how we become “witnesses” of the
mother tongue and mother culture, in the workplace, in new relationships, in
teaching, and in writing. I would like to analyze how we become witnesses of this
new history in our country of origin, therefore becoming carriers of information in
two directions, communicating the difference lived in everyday life. That is, an
increase or deepening of knowledge which potentially implies a transformation, an
opening up to diversity, a rejection of generalizations and prejudice, which in turn
can translate into a stronger desire to contribute to collective projects among
women, be it in fighting together for rights within the university system or other
work places, or in promoting initiatives for peace, or again in taking part in other
local or global movements.

Over the years I have often asked myself how much of my past history is
determining my way of being in the United States (of which, like other women, I still
am a resident and not a citizen, after some thirty years), and I have often
considered writing a story, from the memories of 1968 to the present. The current
demonstrations in the streets of Paris and Los Angeles remind us of past experiences
in different times and places, and deserve the kind of attention that goes beyond
borders between worlds. We live here, in a country where “precarious lives”
constitute a permanent existential condition for a significant part of the population, a
condition that is neither of recent acquisition, nor the result of September 11 – here,
the life experience of our before and after crosses path with the before and after of a
larger Europe and United States. I would also like to examine the experiences of
those who drew itineraries between countries of origin and adoptive countries in the
fields of literature and post colonial feminism (Desai and Spivak, just to mention two
women who live between India and the United States), to see how much of their
migratory experience is similar to or contrasting with our own.

Finally, I would like to give some thought to the individual or collective painful
exclusion, and to examine how much of it is at the root of the difficult choice of
leaving one’s country; furthermore, how much can this process of coming and
going, of repeating the ritual of separation and rejoining, of being the
“spokesperson” of two worlds, how much can all this be understood as the
acceptance, the cure, and the overcoming of a void and of a suffering.

				
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