New Publication, New Gig, Still in Berlin

Front cover of Musical Performance and the Changing City (2013), edited by Carsten Wergin and Fabian Holt.

Yikes! It’s been embarrassingly long since I last posted something on here. If you’re still reading, thanks for not abandoning this blog out of boredom. As you might have guessed, things have been very, very, very busy over the last few months. The last major post I had put on here had been about all of my troubles getting a !@#$ing residency permit for Germany, and I’m happy to state that this has been more or less resolved—although not precisely in the manner I had intended.

In any case, I have a great deal of updates for this blog, far more than I can fit into even a week of daily blog posts. It’ll take me a while to get through the backlog, but I should post the two most important pieces of news first: 1) I have another publication fresh off the presses, and 2) I have a new post-doc position, which will keep me in Berlin for a while longer.

First, the publication: an essay of mine has been included in a recently published volume edited by Fabian Holt and Carsten Wergin, entitled Musical Performance and the Changing City Post-industrial Contexts in Europe and the United States (Routledge: 2013). My contribution to the collection is an essay on the concept of “liquidarity,” which you might remember from the chapter-by-chapter summaries of my dissertation that I had a couple of years ago (has it been that long?!). The book has been a long time in the making—nearly five years, I think—so it’s a curious experience to read this essay now and be reminded of how I understood the concept of liquidarity back then. Indeed, the essay in this collection was already in its final form before my dissertation was completed. As a result, the corresponding chapter on liquidarity in my dissertation has a very different way of explaining and theorizing the concept (which I am in the process of trying to get published as a journal article). And, now that I’m working on turning my dissertation into a book, I’m expecting to produce a fresh new take on the concept in the near future. In any case, I never cease to be amazed at how the slowness of the academic publishing process makes for these weird time-warps; I often feel that who I am as a “live” scholar is very different from what you would assume from just reading my already-published work. I guess that’s part of what’s useful about keeping a blog on the side…

And second, the new gig: I’m a post-doctoral research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development! Yay! I’m part of a research group on music and emotions in Europe, which is part of the larger Center for the History of Emotions. I got the offer last December (just before Christmas, actually) and started this new position at the beginning of February. The timing could not have been better, as I had been struggling with the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Registration Office) to get a long-term residency permit as a freelancer. The requirements for the freelance visa—especially the “artist” visa—are vague, ever-changing, and notoriously dependent on the mood of the clerk who sees you on a given day, so I had spent most of the fall going to the ABH, waiting for hours, finding out that they didn’t like one document or another, getting a new set of documents, and then going back again. You can imagine, then, how welcome the news was of this post-doc position. Getting a visa as an academic researcher or a student is FAR easier and more straightforward (although by no means easy; this is Germany, after all), so I was able to just show up with a letter of invitation from the Max Planck Institute and I had my immigration status cleared up. As a final, cruel, kick in the pants from German bureaucracy, the clerk working on my case didn’t want to recognize the letter of invitation as an official Aufnahmevereinbarung (hiring agreement), so he gave me a special version of a normal residency permit rather than a proper “researcher” visa. If I want to get a full researcher’s visa now, I have to pick another day to go and wait for 4 hours to have someone look at my current stipend documents. Yay bureaucracy!

In any case, the Max Planck Institute itself is amazing. I mean, the Institute provides an office (shared with one person) with a computer, a stipend one can live on, email, access to online research resources, an in-house library with UNLIMITED INTER-LIBRARY LOAN PRIVILEGES, an affordable cafeteria, weekly colloquiums, copying and scanning facilities, and even a team of research assistants for copying and fetching books. And, once every two weeks, a massage therapist comes to the Institute. Seriously. I know that these are all luxuries that I will likely never experience again, and I am deeply aware of how lucky I am to have this for however long I can.

The position only lasts for six months, though, and then I’ll have a chance to apply for a longer renewal. So, I’m still trapped in that precarious post-doctoral zone of uncertainty and volatility. Who knows where I’ll be living this fall, or where my income will come from? In the meanwhile, though, I have a lot of work to get done, and I plan to fully use every last minute of these next few months.

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