May 18: Are you Venetian or Italian first?

Identity in Venice


Does the chicken come before the egg or does the egg come before the chicken? With identity, it’s not always easy to tell how identities rank. I know for myself, I strongly identify as culturally Jewish, but not as the nationalities of my Jewish ancestors.

While walking around Dorsoduro, a district of Venice, our guide and I got into a discussion about identities. He was remarking that he can be Venetian first and then Italian, like the Russian nesting dolls. I disagreed and said that you could feel more strongly about the country you live in, rather than the city.

“Do you like tiramisu?” he said.

“No, I like panna cotta,” I said.

“Do you like spaghetti? Wait, no, which is your favorite pasta?” he said.

“I like tagliatelle,” I said.

“Well, you can’t have both all of the time, and you don’t want both all of the time. You want one sometimes, and the other sometimes. You could have both for a meal, but you won’t have them for every meal,” he remarked.

I think I take this as a sort of explanation for the fluidity of identity. I hadn’t really thought of it this way, but it makes sense. When I am in Romania or at a Donauschwaben ball, I feel more German, more Donauschwaben. Similarly, when I’m at synagogue, I feel more in-sync with being Jewish. I do think that I feel more connected to being American and being Jewish than anything else, but it’s interesting to think of the “scales” to which I feel my identities.

Venice Photographs

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