Alan Marcus is a professor of geography at Maryland’s Towson University. He was born in Rio de Janeiro to an English father and a Brazilian-born mother, who was of English and Egyptian parentage. With this background, it’s not surprising that Alan developed an abiding interest in transnationalism, and he coined the word “autobiogeographies” to describe personal stories about place in answer questions like How did you end up here? and Where is home? He explores these themes in his latest book, Transnational Geographers in the United States: Navigating Autobiogeographies in a Global Age.
Alan snapped this photograph on his cell phone in Baltimore’s Fell’s Point. The turquoise blue building is the Cat’s Eye Pub on Thames Street, where he plays in a band from time to time. He used the image on the cover of the book and, for him, it’s symbolic on many levels. “I thought of the different colors and houses,” he says, “and the navigational theme is present – which all reflect the concept of trajectories, travel, movement, and the question of ‘where is home?’”
For him, now, the simple answer to that question is, “Baltimore” although, like for so many transnationals, the trajectory that led him “home” was far from simple. The most difficult part was, “perhaps the initial search for a true sense of place rooted in the moment, the present, and not exclusively in the past.” He left Brazil, as he says, “to find out if there was something wrong with me or with Brazil.” He never returned to live in South America, so it seems he found his answer. Via New York, London, the Golan Heights, Cairo, Scotland, and Massachusetts, he made his way to Baltimore eight years ago.
Many immigrant stories are full of tortured duality. Alan’s, it seems, is not. He has no qualms that he wants to be in Baltimore, and is very happy to be a United States citizen. “I have learned to appreciate the concept of new cultural and physical landscapes,” he says, “and particularly experiencing new emotional landscapes.” The geographer’s metaphor is crystal clear.