In today's BaZ, there is a very worthwhile denkstück (in German, by subscription or pdf) on provincialism. I am interested in the matter on two accounts: 1. I live in (the vicinity of) Basle, and 2. I am on the record for saying that Basle is provincial because she's constantly worried about being just that.

Mr. Sommer posits, in short, that smallish places like Basle tend to develop a P trauma, the feeling to be forgotten by the world. The only way out of that trauma is either by imitation of metropolis or by ignoring it. He proposes a third way, however: To be aware of one's marginality (Randständigkeit) and take that as a chance to critically and creatively observe what happens in "the centre" - or even to take a sharp counterpoint to it. He quotes important characters who did just that in Basle: Jacob Burckhardt, Friedrich Nietzsche, Franz Overbeck. You can see the whole picture better from a distance.

This is a very interesting attitude, and one that I entirely support, despite of its apparent contradiction to my statement. My statement does nothing but question the P trauma and implicitly advocates for more confidence in our "marginal" position, beyond imitation & ignorance. The trouble with the third way is that its alternatives do not require what is often in short supply: the capacity for reflection & debate.

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