The Other Acknowledgements


A fairy-ring of mushrooms grew overnight on the lawn during the NEH Summer Institute at Wesleyan

During the preparation of the final, revised, post-defense version of my dissertation, I finally had to flesh out all of the “front matter” of my dissertation. The front matter usually includes things like an epigraph, a dedication, acknowledgements, a table of contents, lists of tables/figures/maps/etc., and an abstract of the dissertation. Writing the acknowledgements was surprisingly hard, and there were a lot of people, organizations, and things that I couldn’t acknowledge in a scholarly dissertation. But this is a blog, and I have considerably more freedom to shift between levels of formality and punch through layers of politics and politeness. So here are all the other things for which I am grateful, dissertation-wise.

Up until this final version of the dissertation, I just had rather cheeky placeholders for most of the front matter. My acknowledgements read: “Thanks, everyone.” My dedication was “to strangers; you know who you are,” which seemed like an appropriate dedication, considering that my thesis was centrally focused on stranger-intimacy. (In fact, I eventually kept this placeholder and added a rather poignant one to my sister, which made her cry at work. Success!) I was especially pleased with myself for the placeholder I wrote in the Epigraph:

This is a quote of someone saying something very meaningful. You know that it is meaningful because it is allusive and aphoristic, and because I have used indented margins.

—Important Person, A Book You’ll Pretend You’ve Read (2020)

Not exactly side-splitting humor, but is this more or less what you can get away with in academic writing (in drafts, at least).

While it took me a bit of time and thought to fill out the epigraph and the dedication, I found the acknowledgements tougher than I had expected. At first, my plan was just to include something simple and slightly witty, like, “I acknowledge you,” or “If you’re reading this, thank you.” But then I realized that I had to recognize all the funding bodies that supported my dissertation research; some of my fellowships explicitly required this, and it was obviously the right thing to do. Well, it would be odd to have an acknowledgements section that starts with something pithy and then follows with a boring list of fellowships and grants, so I had to fill out some details. Of course I should thank my immediate family…and maybe the rest of my family too. Of course I should thank my dissertation committee, but I should also thank all of those administrative assistants that helped me—as well as those faculty members that read my work without being on my committee. Oh, and obviously my classmates. Oh, and…and…and…and so on.

So, my acknowledgements ended up being a rather dense page of thank yous, and it all felt rather formulaic and perfunctory. But there are lots of other entities that deserve to be acknowledged in my dissertation, so here’s a list of ’em.

Thank you,

  • music; the source of my work, play, comfort, distraction, and—sometimes—moments of great clarity.
  • party kids and techno/house-lovers of Berlin, Paris, and Chicago. You’re the reason this ever happened.
  • promoters and club managers and DJs and music writers and other support staff (and let’s be honest, this includes dealers and other “informal economies”). You keep the scene alive and vibrant.
  • strangers, especially the ones I talked to at EDM events. You make things interesting.
  • La Cholita coffee, for keeping me up when I needed it. And for tasting so damn good.
  • my family, of course. For pretty much everything, including smuggling La Cholita out of Peru for me.
  • all the non-academic folks who read this blog or other things I’ve written. It’s really important to me that the people I write about can and do engage with my work.
  • Resident Advisor and its editor, Todd L. Burns, for taking a chance on my writing.
  • tasty food, for nutrition, distraction, and comfort. I should probably be pissed about how fat you’ve made me, but I can’t stay mad at you.
  • sexy men, for companionship, distraction, and fun. Sexy ladies, too, but for somewhat different kinds of companionship, distraction, and fun.
  • colleagues, classmates, and mentors. At your best, you make me smarter and model the kind of scholar I want to be; at your worst, you still provide important cautionary lessons and strengthen my resolve to stick with academia and do it right.
  • Berghain/PanoramaBar, for providing so many interesting anecdotes and striking encounters that you nearly eclipsed everything else in my dissertation.
  • my bike and the Lakeshore trail along Lake Michigan. For hour-long periods where I’m not thinking about my motherfucking dissertation.
  • my neighborhood in Paris, near métro Parmentier and surrounded by more delicious bread than was healthy.
  • beer. You’re delicious and refreshing.
  • Big Chicks. For being the local queer dive bar I discovered far too late.
  • Adidas and Tiger Onitsuka shoes. If I was going out dancing, there was a good chance that I had one of you two on my feet.
  • MetaFilter. Damn you for distracting me, but thank you for introducing me to a zillion things I never would’ve heard of.
  • my Playstation2 (and, later, 3). I’m still pretty pissed with Sony and PSN for all those security breaches, but the console itself provided hours of fun when dissertation anxiety was inescapable.
  • MusicologyJobWiki. You streamlined the job/fellowship application process and allowed me to get back to dissertation-writing more quickly, although you also made me more neurotic about a bleak job market.
  • Archer, Venture Bros., Frisky Dingo, SeaLab 2021, Futurama, Clone High, and many other late-night cartoons. You were funny when I needed it.
  • my laptop. You were kind enough to not crash horribly when I was in the middle of writing something important.
  • Scrivener. You made the insane writing and revisions of the final months considerably less insane.
  • Al Jazeera English. Ever since I cancelled my awful cable and discovered your live stream, my daily news has been much more international, balanced, and non-crazy.
  • the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies at the Freie Universität, Berlin. You give me money to live and work in Berlin next year, so you get lots of thanks.
  • myself. I fucking earned this.

I’m sure there’s more, but this is a start at least.

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