Travel

La Mission: Life in a Hedonist-Doomsday-Cult-Art-Collective


La Mission Logo

La Mission’s mail logo / revolutionary symbol.

La Mission has been a big part of my life here in Berlin since last summer, but strangely enough it’s taken me nearly a year to get around to writing about it on this blog. Maybe I wanted to wait until the first round of multimedia craziness emerged from this performance art collective / music label / magazine, before I started crowing about it. Maybe I was too shy about discussing my own creative work. No, wait…I remember why: I was on the academic job market last fall, which meant that I got nothing else done.

La Mission is a lot of things, including a satirical doomsday cult, a music label, a magazine, an art collective, and a group of dance-music-lovers with a very dirty sense of humor. La Mission’s identity is perhaps best summed up by cult-leader El Jefe’s manifesto/sermon, “The Sermon for the Steps of the Ziggurat in our Hearts,” published in our first La Mission magazine: (more…)

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Feeling Alien in Germany: Bureaucracy and the Thresholds of Belonging


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 (more…)

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


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 Germanlanguage news items. But I can also translate from French and Spanish (among others).

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

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


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 (more…)

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


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 (more…)

Typologies of Tourism Photography (in Translation)


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) (more…)

New Berliner Stereotypes in Translation


Graffiti at the Schönleinstrasse stop on the U8 line.

A couple of months ago, the magazine Zitty Berlin posted an online article entitled, “Berlin, deine Feindbilder.” Feindbild literally means something like “villan-image,” but the meaning here is more like “bogeyman” or “negative stereotype.” And so, Zitty, which is a supplementary magazine to the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, offered a surprisingly long list of stereotypes of Berlin’s denizens. While not as funny as caricatures, these Feindbilder capture something essential about the debates and tensions that are alive in Berlin right now. None of these images are entirely true or false, but they represent the way Berliners imagine each other when they’re fighting about something.

Naturally, the original article was in German. But, since there are a lot of English-speaking ex-pats in Berlin and since there are a lot of people outside of Berlin who would be interested in learning more about these stereotypes, I’ve translated a handful of them here. Out of respect for the authors of the original article, I’ve only translated 5 of the 24 profiles. I also haven’t re-used the cute caricature drawings that accompanied each profile in the original article.

The Neukölln Hipster (more…)