Roots and Anchors

Zygmunt Bauman (2008): “De Singly rightly suggests that in theorizing about present identities, the metaphors of ‘roots’ and ‘uprooting’ (or, let me add, the related trope of ‘disembedding’), all implying the one-off nature of the individual’s emancipation from the community of birth as well as the finality and irrevocability of the act, are better abandoned and replaced by the tropes of dropping and weighing an anchor.

“Unlike ‘uprooting’ and ‘disembedding,’ there is nothing irrevocable, let alone ultimate, in weighing anchor. While roots torn out of the soil in which they were growing are likely to desiccate and die, anchors are drawn up only to be dropped again elsewhere …. All in all, the anchor metaphor captures what the metaphor of ‘uprooting’ misses or keeps silent about: the intertwining of continuity and discontinuity in the history of all or at least a growing number of contemporary identities ….

“Paradoxically, emancipation of the self and its effective self-assertion need strong and demanding communities.”

Simone Weil (1949): “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recog­nized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active, and natural participation in the life of a community, which pre­serves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain expectations for the future. This participation is a natural one, in the sense that it is automatically brought about by place, conditions of birth, profession, and social surroundings. Every human being needs to have multiple roots. It is necessary for him to draw well-nigh the whole of his moral, intellec­tual, and spiritual life by way of the environment of which he forms a natural part.”


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