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Old Posted Sep 23, 2019, 5:13 PM
Handro Handro is offline
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Join Date: May 2017
Location: Chicago
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Originally Posted by galleyfox View Post
'Bodenlosigkeit' has a very different meaning than change. It's a state of mind -- of being groundless, unattached. Existing in a state of exile or willful identity-loss. Many people in Europe get the strong impression that the Midwest is a region that cannot build a regional identity, which is the antithesis of Europe and unsettles them deeply. It is not a sentiment they experience in the West at all.

This article is probably closest to describing it:

Cayton blames this lack of “regional consciousness” in part on geography: “Regional identity—the creation of an imagined community—requires a strong sense of isolation. And the Midwest is not, strictly speaking, isolated. It is in the middle.” More important, however, is the intensity of local attachment: “But it is less regional rootlessness than local rootedness that makes the construction of a regional identity so difficult in the Midwest.… Localism, this pride in family, town, and state, leaves little room for interest in a coherent regional identity. In general, Midwesterners want to be left alone in worlds of their own making.”17

So a Midwesterner not wanting to identify their home city with the Midwest but rather "The North" or "The Great Lakes" is quintessential Midwest.

(Though I think you're underestimating the change that has happened in the Midwest, and overestimating the West. The California that my great-grandfather and grandfather grew up in was full of risky ventures, STEM workers and flophouses, and just generally like today.)
The Midwest is massive and covers some very different sub-regions--the history of Detroit is vastly different from Omaha--more so than, say, Seattle and Denver. Or Boston and New York. So perhaps traveling between these giant regions gives a sense of "Bodenlosigkeit" as you describe it. But I also am not sure where these Europeans you're talking about come from that they think "The Midwest" should have an identity, since "The Midwest" would be pretty arbitrary to anyone outside the United States (hell, even on this forum of geography nerds, people can't come to a real agreement on what places make up the Midwest!)

And anecdotally, my Italian family and their friends love the Midwest. They are in awe of the cornfields, barns, small leafy towns that in their minds define "Americana". Sure, New York is New York, LA is of the movies, and Las Vegas is an adult playground that could only exist in the US, but they love visiting us here and always ask to take (the most seemingly boring) day trips to experience the vast flatness around Chicago.

Last edited by Handro; Sep 23, 2019 at 5:27 PM.
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