Notes of a Local Outsider

It is an interesting thing to be a local outsider.

In Helsinki, where I live, I am a local for living here. At the same time, I am an outsider for being an immigrant. Not that I am isolated in Finland or anything. I am not. It is just that I still have a feeling I don’t belong even though I love having here as a home.

The funny thing is that I am also a local outsider in Brazil (or Rio or Magé, my hometown). I am a local for being from there. But I have lived abroad for a while. So I end up being an outsider there too. I sometimes feel I don’t belong back home as well.

One could freak out in a situation like this. I mean, feeling that one does not belong anywhere. I do sometimes. But there can be benefits.

As a social scientist, for example, being a local outsider puts me in a privileged position. In researching Brazilian society, I have more access to the people and its mentality than many of my non-Brazilian colleagues. At the same time, I am more detached from Brazil than my colleagues studying ourselves as people from within.

On the other hand I have my own set of problems to deal with.

To what extent can I actually claim I understand what is going on back there? What if my perception of my home society is clouded by blurred memories, hopes, disappointments and a narrow perspective of current events mostly seen through my Facebook newsfeed?

In order to deal with this and other problems I decided to create this blog. Here I will take some notes reflecting about Brazil and my own position as a local outsider. In fact, the “Brazil” here will mainly refer to Rio and my hometown Magé – a small city (about 230 thousand inhabitants) in the Metropolitan Area of Rio.

I can’t even pretend to know all about Brazil and Brazilians. Actually many Brazilians, Finns and other foreigners know much more about Brazil than I do. Many have studied so much about the country, traveled to many places and experienced much more than I have.

So in a way this blog is very much about me trying to figure out what it exactly means to be a local outsider. That is why I will stick to the reality I am (or believe to be) more familiar with.

This personal journey also explains why I created a blog both in English and in Portuguese. I think it is an interesting reflexive exercise as a local outsider to talk both to people here about things they may not know much about and there about things everyone believes or seems to know so much about.

Am I being a reliable “local” to outsiders? Am I talking like a naive and uninformed “outsider” to locals? Hm… I believe the notes in this blog will at least help me figure this dilemma out.

– L