“Optimism” in Hannah Arendt’s “We Refugees”
Optimism, according to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, refers to tendency to expect the best in all things, confidence in success, or belief that good will triumph over evil in the end. In Hannah Arendt’s article, this optimism describes refugees who think and speak cheerfully that “their whole former life had been passed in a kind of unconscious exile and only their new country now taught them what a home really looks like.” (111)
However, in the particular text on Jews who constantly loss their homes, this optimism is actually a disguise of their inner fear of being immigrants and a desperate hope to assimilate. Those people have to adjust to everything in the new environment in order to be possibly accepted as proper citizens and regain human rights, which is in fact hard to achieve. Thus, this seemingly wishful attitude reflects a deep hopelessness.
I find it interesting because this displayed optimism and the actual sadness create a dramatic contrast. In dance, as demonstrated in today’s workshop with Aakash Odedra, different attitudes generate different energy. Refugees’ deceitful appearance and their inner voice form a contrast of energy. It can bring out powerful tension in body movements, which might help to reveal a hidden truth of refugee life to the audience.
Arendt, Hannah. Altogether Elsewhere. Edited by Marc Robinson fi. Faber and Faber. BOST ON e LONDON.
Hornby, Albert Sydney., et al. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English. 7th ed. Oxford: New Delhi: Oxford University Press.