Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Dépaysé & Déraciné - The Uprooting of People

Syrian refugees in 2014
Photo credit: Concern Worldwide


Adjective. Feminine dépaysée. Early 20th century.
[French = (removed) from one's own country.]

Removed from one's habitual surroundings.


Adjective & noun. Feminine déracinée. Early 20th century.
[French = uprooted, past participial adjective of déraciner, from dé + racine root.]

A adj. Uprooted from one's environment;
displaced geographically or socially. E20

B noun. A déraciné person. E20

Dépaysé and déraciné stem from the French verb déraciner, 'to uproot'. It's a feeling most of us can relate to - whether we've uprooted by choice, perhaps by moving house or to a new country, or we've been uprooted, perhaps by losing a job, leaving us removed from our reassuringly familiar surroundings.

The truly déraciné, however, are those that have had their roots pulled up from underneath them, displaced into the unfamiliar and alien. One might think of the millions of Britons (particularly children) who were evacuated during The Blitz of WWII to escape the threat of aerial bombing. Even their hardships, however, are nothing in comparison to the hundreds of thousands currently being displaced in places like Syria, Ukraine, Gaza and Iraq.

When considering places like this, it's easy to simply think of them as war-torn, lawless and ruined lands, places that no one would want to live in. However, as the root verb metaphorically highlights, these are people's homes, where they have laid their roots and livelihoods, which speaks for the unthinkable horrors people must have faced in order to pull everything up and flee. And, of course, even if such ones do find shelter, where they're not scorned or treated with contempt by the authorities or native population, it still isn't home, their home, where they had their roots, and thus they remain déraciné.

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1 comment:

  1. I can't even begin to imagine the emptiness.
    I suffered a kind of... that. Due to the independence of one of Portuguese Colonies - Angola - we had to face leave a country that soon would be devastated by the war but somehow the choice of destiny wasn't such a bad one - as it was the Country my father had been born and raised until he traveled - at 12 - to Angola. So there was family, there was a known language but I still feel a sense of lost of a life built and then abandoned overnight to start again with so less means.
    To head God Knows where with all the uncertainty that the people mentioned by you feel fills me with despair. It makes me feel selfish and stupid when I bother a frame fell and broke. Also very fortunate for being bothered with nothings like such.
    Take Care,