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Looking for my old blog?

This is my new blog, which has slightly different editorial goals in comparison to my original blog, Luis in Paris. If you're looking for the chronicles of my two years in Paris (and 2 months / innumerable weekends in Berlin), head over there to see the archives. I won't be transferring those archives over here.

Feeling Alien in Germany: Bureaucracy and the Thresholds of Belonging

December 12, 2012

The trash collectors in Berlin have an excellent sense of humor.

The trash collectors in Berlin have an excellent sense of humor.

Nothing makes you feel quite as alien and precarious as waiting in an immigration office, especially as you wait for a Beamter/in (clerk, officer) to make a decision about your future in Germany—based, it seems, primarily on their current mood and digestive health. And yet, one of my interviewees once claimed that she never felt more at home in Berlin than when she was at the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office), the Bürgeramt (citizen’s registration office), or the Finanzamt (finance and revenue office). And she has a point: when the process is successful, there is a sense of satisfaction and membership that you can get from interfacing with the behemoth that is German bureaucracy. But, as a foreigner in a foreign land, you remain at the mercy of this bureaucracy and the many people that work in it, and that sometimes means that your experience is far more alienating than welcoming.

Much of my research here on so-called “techno tourism” and music-related migration to Berlin has revealed the ways in which recently-arrived people manage to feel at home here, even before they have spent enough time to “integrate” culturally. But my recent experiences with Germany’s Ausländerbehörde has reminded me of how fragile this sense of being “at home” can be Read more…

Two reviews of Karen Tongson’s Relocations

December 10, 2012

theluisgarcia:

At last month’s AAA (anthropology) panel on “Transfrancisco” (queer/trans San Francisco), someone rightly pointed out that a lot of recent queer ethnography/theory has been moving away from urban centres and onto rural/small-town queer life. But who’s been thinking about queer suburban life in the meanwhile?

Originally posted on Society and Space - Environment and Planning D:

relocations coverMeredith Raimondo and Lorena Muñoz each offer a review of Karen Tongson’s Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries.  They were part of an author-meets-critics panel at last year’s New York AAG, organized by Jasbir Puar.  Relocations was published in 2011 by New York University Press.

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GEMA en français: French Coverage of the Anti-GEMA Protests

September 18, 2012

Screenshot from the front page of SACEM, the French equivalent of GEMA

Beyond Germany’s borders, the debates over GEMA and its new tarif system rarely get much coverage, only spawning the occasional under-researched, “Will Berlin’s Nightclubs Perish?” sort of articles in the foreign press. But Berlin is an increasingly international city full of expatriates—many of them “creative” workers that have personal and professional links into the local music scenes here—and some of them have been blogging about this issue in their own language, explaining the issue to readers in their countries of origin while also informing their fellow expatriates in Berlin. I’ve been up to a bit of that myself in English, writing on recent anti-GEMA protests and translating pieces of German-language news items. But I can also translate from French and Spanish (among others).

So today, I thought I’d move laterally and Read more…

Touristen Fisten: Themes and Images in Berliner Anti-Tourism / Anti-Gentrification Discourses

August 24, 2012

Somewhere near Erkstrasse and Sonnenallee in Neukölln.

My Berlin research files are organized under a number of folders, including one for “Tourism Debates” and another one for “Gentrification Debates.” These days, I’m thinking I need to merge these two folders, since the debates have become increasingly intertwined (and often hopelessly confused). In a recent opinion article in Die Zeit online, entitled, “Burn the Tourists” (“Touristen anzünden”), David Hugendick complains that left-political anti-gentrification discourse has taken an ironically xenophobic turn by harnessing anti-tourist (and, more broadly, anti-foreigner) sentiment. Of course, this article is almost interchangeable with a wide range of opinion pieces that have been appearing in mainstream German-language newspapers in the last while, part of a larger (and older) pattern in Berlin of countering critical voices from the left by associating them with violent tactics and contrarian positions.

In any case, although it is debatable whether Read more…

Talking Culture, Money, and Music: Anti-GEMA Protests

August 23, 2012

The view from somewhere near the stage, back over Boxhagener Platz

Yesterday, there was yet another anti-GEMA demonstration held at Boxhagener Platz in Friedrichshain, just in front of the bar/club Stereo 33. There have been an ongoing series of these demonstrations in Berlin since at least late spring, but this event was interesting for how it mixed music and talk, as well as themes of culture and money.

For those of you who haven’t been living in Germany over the past year and haven’t been bombarded with Read more…

Typologies of Tourism Photography (in Translation)

August 21, 2012

I couldn’t find any “Ethno-Bild” images in my collection of photos, but the “Oh hey, grim architecture in the developing world” thing is pretty clichéd as well. From Lima, Perú.

Last Sunday, Süddeutsche Zeitung’s bloggy online stepchild Jetzt.de published a brief article entitled, “Everything is so wonderfully different here!” (Alles so schön anders hier!), which sketches out a semi-serious/semi-satirical typology of the kinds of vacation photos you’ll find on your friends’ Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram feeds (oh, and Google+ too, I suppose). Lately, I’ve been been up to here (*points to neck*) with work, preparing articles for publication and getting a book proposal ready and preparing for the job market and figuring out how to renew my visa and my passport at the same time and entertaining a constant stream of house-guests and AAAGH TOO MUCH. So, following the example of my post last month where I translated part of a German-language article on negative stereotypes about tourists, I thought I’d do the same with this article. Like that earlier post, I’m only translating a small portion of a longer article. If you can read German, I encourage you to check out the original article here; if you like what you read and wish you could read it in English, send ‘em an email and suggest that they hire a brilliant and attractive freelance translator (*ahem*) so that you can read the whole thing.

1. The Ethnic Picture (Das Ethno-Bild) Read more…

Fuzzy Intimacies: Cats and Gestures of Intimacy

August 2, 2012

Not the cat in question. My sister’s cat, Petrarch. He makes a good stand-in.

Just yesterday, I was waiting to meet an academic colleague for an afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake, something of a German ritual). I was out in Dahlem—a southern suburb of Berlin and the home of the Freie Universität—sitting on the outdoor patio of a café at corner of Garystraße and Ihnestraße. Aux Délices Normands, it was called; pretty solid French pastries and cakes, lackluster coffee, pleasant seating.

When I first came to sit down, there was a small, grey-and-white cat sitting on the bench opposite me at the table. It was Read more…

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