The Passport as Home: Comfort in Rootlessness

Jackson Janes

President Emeritus of AGI

Jackson Janes is the President Emeritus of the American-German Institute at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, where he has been affiliated since 1989.

Dr. Janes has been engaged in German-American affairs in numerous capacities over many years. He has studied and taught in German universities in Freiburg, Giessen and Tübingen. He was the Director of the German-American Institute in Tübingen (1977-1980) and then directed the European office of The German Marshall Fund of the United States in Bonn (1980-1985). Before joining AICGS, he served as Director of Program Development at the University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (1986-1988). He was also Chair of the German Speaking Areas in Europe Program at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, DC, from 1999-2000 and is Honorary President of the International Association for the Study of German Politics .

Dr. Janes is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Atlantic Council of the United States, and American Purpose. He serves on the advisory boards of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, and the Beirat der Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik (ZfAS). He serves on the Selection Committee for the Bundeskanzler Fellowships for the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Dr. Janes has lectured throughout Europe and the United States and has published extensively on issues dealing with Germany, German-American relations, and transatlantic affairs. In addition to regular commentary given to European and American news radio, he has appeared on CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, PBS, CBC, and is a frequent commentator on German television. Dr. Janes is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Education.

In 2005, Dr. Janes was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Germany’s highest civilian award.

Ph.D., International Relations, Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California
M.A., Divinity School, University of Chicago
B.A., Sociology, Colgate University

Transatlantic relations, German-American relations, domestic German politics, German-EU relations, transatlantic affairs.


Andy Markovits often writes emails in capital letters. He does that when he wants to let you know how he feels about things. It is not only about what he is saying but how he says it—with feeling and focus. Now he has written his autobiography that tells a lot more about those feelings and how they shaped his life, personally and professionally. And at the end of the story, you realize how many different pieces of his personal and professional life fit together as “a wanderer, an outsider or a profoundly and proudly rootless cosmopolitan.” From Timisoara, Romania, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, that wandering path brought him into circles of friendship and cultures which shaped his destiny in becoming an observer, participant, and an important mentor for many hundreds of people whom Andy met along the way. I was fortunate to be one of them.

The many things that make up Andrei S. Markovits parallel important historical moments in Europe and the United States, be they political moments or simply moments that influenced the course of his personal life. These moments range from the fall of the Berlin Wall to a World Cup soccer match and encounters with world-renowned scholars or individuals who became his mentors—among the most important of which was his father to whom the book is dedicated. Andy has recorded his personal and professional evolutions symbolically in capital letters.

Andy speaks many languages, both literally and figuratively. These skills emerged out of his journeys in the environments of Hungarian, German (with a Viennese accent), of course American English, and a bit of Yiddish. He also speaks the language of scholarship, music, (especially the dialect of the Grateful Dead), sports, and dogs with whom he has a special connection. In living and working in different worlds over multiple decades, he has acquired an ease with which he can move and find shared spaces with a wide range of people in multiple ways. He is as comfortable with world-famous senior scholars as he is with students, people at rock concerts and soccer games, or in academic debates. The constant changes in Andy’s life have honed those skills by sustaining a “comfort in rootlessness,” capable of moving effortlessly in different spheres.

The title of his book, The Passport as Home, can be taken literally. “My only anchor in this rootless world has been my United States passport,” because “my most desired identity is being an American.” While most Americans carry their driver’s license as identification, Andy carries his passport with him everywhere, “mostly for the immense solace, comfort, and security that nothing else comes close to giving me.” Andy is from many places, but he is at home in America. But how did he arrive here?

The constant changes in Andy’s life have honed those skills by sustaining a “comfort in rootlessness,” capable of moving effortlessly in different spheres.

The evolution of his name is part of the story. The book opens with a description of the first decade of Andy’s childhood in Timisoara, Romania. His Romanian birth certificate lists him as Andrei although his parents called him Andras, the Hungarian version, which evolved into Andreas after he moved to Austria and then Andy in America. The choice he made to list his name on this book as Andrei (which is the same on all his official documents) echoes roots amidst his rootlessness. Romanian was his first citizenship, but American, which he received in 1971, was his second and most cherished.

The chapters of Andy’s first years in Romania and then his second decade in Austria paint a vivid picture of the efforts of those around him to confront the scars of war, the Holocaust, and the struggles to recognize as well as the efforts to forget the horrors of both. His description of his school life as one of the few Jews in a Catholic environment captures the tensions still lingering in postwar Europe, although he does not testify to having confronted anti-Semitic experiences personally. He experienced the institutional, regimented learning of the Austrian school system and discovered the stereotypes about America, which laid the groundwork of his focus on anti-Americanism in Europe later in his academic life. “Many Europeans to this day claim that the United States has no culture and no history,” a characteristic that he argues is directly linked to anti-Semitism, later examined in his widely acclaimed book Amerika, dich hasst sich’s besser.

Yet his fascination with everything American was buoyed by another source of stereotypes which he found in books written by Karl May. It was cultural America he was to fall in love with, even though his teachers shared only contempt for that America. In those Vienna years, Andy tells how he found solace in three friends who shared his love of an irreverent America challenging the European elites. The story of their adventures as well as the trails that kept them linked over decades is another chapter on Andy’s ultimate destiny in America.

Understanding that Vienna was only a way station to the United States, in 1960 he finally arrived in the America he dreamed about. He and his father visited to secure green cards permitting annual visits to the United States—eventually leading to Andy’s U.S. citizenship. Over the next seven years, Andy would be allowed to come to America each summer—per a pact with his father—until he finished high school in Vienna. With that diploma in hand, the beginning of Andy’s life in America commenced when he enrolled at Columbia University in 1967, as did the path to the academic world he would inhabit over the next half-century. That path was to lead him through multiple institutions and networks—ever able to be observer and participant, research scholar and teacher, and an expert reaching across academic disciplines and boundaries.

His enrollment at Columbia University connected him with that institution’s leading scholars as he pursued his undergraduate and graduate degrees over eight years. They furthered Andy’s interest in unconventional connections. He described his calling into the arena of political science as a political sociologist with a broader scope. That experience would eventually be reflected in his exceptional ability to relate to and work across boundaries in his university life. Moreover, it enabled what he calls “a synthesis between Europe and the United States” in developing his understanding of European thinkers, politics, and social movements, all of which would encompass his passions for years to come.

His enrollment at Columbia University … enabled what he calls “a synthesis between Europe and the United States” in developing his understanding of European thinkers, politics, and social movements, all of which would encompass his passions for years to come.

It was no accident that these passions would ultimately lead Andy to a center at Harvard, which would be another foundational platform for his personal and professional career for many years. Having the resources to support a postdoctoral research opportunity, Andy simply appeared on the Harvard campus in 1975 and connected himself with the Center for European Studies and its many illustrious leaders and fellows. It was there that Andy developed his own focus on the study of labor unions with particular emphasis on Germany. The Center fit Andy like a glove. He describes it “as a profoundly interdisciplinary place” in which he could explore his interests and sharpen his skills, rubbing shoulders with people on similar academic explorations. He was closely connected with Guido Goldman, one of the Center’s founders (as well as of the German Marshall Fund of the United States). Andy writes of him: “I shared so much, not least an unparalleled rootlessness, his possibly even more pronounced than mine.” But Guido was only one of many people who helped shape Andy’s work and life within the orbit of Harvard. Another was Prof. Karl Deutsch, whom Andy called his mentor, his teacher, and his friend, and with whom he worked closely for over fifteen years until Deutsch died in 1992. As a tribute to him years later, when Andy was offered a collegiate professorship at the University of Michigan—coming with the privilege of naming the Chair after whomever he chose—naturally Andy chose Karl W. Deutsch.

The chapter on his years affiliated with Harvard is filled with milestones marked by the many people he met and worked with, the publications and research projects he captained, and the steady platform it provided Andy to pursue his academic endeavors even as he wound up on the faculty of different universities. He writes fondly of that era: “what was the basis for this fortuitous association? Harvard became a spiritual and soulful home precisely because I had nothing to do with this institution in any formal manner…I was completely marginal to it. Nothing could have been more pronounced in its rootlessness than my association with Harvard University. Yet precisely in this rootlessness did the place offer me a home the likes of which I will never find anywhere else in the world of the academy.”

Of course, Andy was eventually to create his own home with his beloved wife Kikki. She first came into his life in the late sixties in Vienna, only to leave it for almost a quarter -century until they found each other again after living different lives on different sides of the Atlantic. The chapter of that destiny describes again how the many pieces of Andy’s life have come together in that synthesis between Europe and America.

Andy is recognized as a public intellectual who can be critical of Germany and admonish it to be aware of its power.

The final section of the book focuses on the core of Andy’s professional but also personal connection with Germany. The engagement with that country was to frame his choice of scholarly work over decades, leaving a trail of accomplishments and contributions to individuals and institutions on both sides of the Atlantic. He was a mentor and catalyst for hundreds of students and colleagues in multiple institutional contexts, setting standards and goals for those who followed him. He was a founder and editor of German Politics and Society at Harvard (it eventually moved with him to California and then to its current home at Georgetown University), which offers a unique platform for scholars across disciplinary lines. His scholarship on German labor unions created new avenues of research in comparative politics. And his constant support of younger scholars in his award-winning teaching career was recognized in 2017 with a Festschrift in honor of his academic leadership organized by the Leuphana University in Lüneburg. Indeed, the Federal Republic of Germany itself recognized Andy’s contributions by awarding him the Bundesverdienstkreuz erste Klasse (The Cross of Order of Merit).

Yet Andy also was always shaped by a degree of ambiguity about Germany which he says, “never won my heart.” Andy is recognized as a public intellectual who can be critical of Germany and admonish it to be aware of its power. It is in his rootlessness that Andy again finds the capacity to be an observer and participant in a country that respects his critique as well as his praise.

The journey Andy describes ends with his declaration of his career as a “reasonably successful academic with an internationally recognized profile.” And yet he confesses that it has been “the less prestigious and weighty side of this professional engagement—its teaching component— that truly delighted me and made me love every second of my professional existence. In many ways, without children of my own, I came to students as people with whom I loved to engage intellectually but with many of whom I forged emotional bonds and friendships.” It was an expression of his passion for teaching that two thousand letters of recommendation comprise the most important products of his writing.

But that would be characteristic of Andy Markovits and his recognition of how his own life was shaped “by virtue of another individual’s good will.” And maybe some of those recommendations were even written in capital letters.

Andrei S. Markovits’s memoir The Passport as Home: Comfort in Rootlessness was published by Central European University Press in Budapest, Vienna and New York in August 2021. The German translation Der Pass mein zu Hause: Aufgefangen in Wurzellosigkeit will be published in April 2022 by Neofelis Verlag in Berlin.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.