ast week, I organized a two-day conference here in Berlin, which took the affective dimensions of urban soundscapes as its central theme. Running November 7th–8th at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, the conference featured a mix of scholarly presentations and discussion panels that included professionals out of Berlin’s local music scene, as well as music/sound-related evening events (see the conference program at the end of this post). I’m still recovering from the whole thing (as well as from an opportunistic flu that jumped into my body as soon as the conference came to a close), but I wanted to post some of my impressions of the conference, while they are still vivid in my memory. Considering the vanishingly small operating budget and a similarly tight planning period, I’m somewhat amazed I was able to pull it off at all.
Plans for this conference first arose last July, (more…)
“Serve Yourself” says the caption over this urinal in Strasbourg, France.
he image of the industrial economy as a great machine oiled by the sweat and blood of its workers has been a common trope for Marxist and anti-capitalist writers. Much has changed since the industrial revolution inspired such metaphors, but the costs of lubricating social processes remains a relevant issue in these post-industrial, accelerated, and uncertain times. Based on the last two decades of social and cultural studies, one could gather that the world we live in is becoming increasingly fluid (Bauman) and mobile (Urry). But what enables social and cultural “matter” to flow at increasing rates?
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…)
Not the cat in question. My sister’s cat, Petrarch. He makes a good stand-in.
ust 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 (more…)
K, so I originally thought this blog post would be a short little summary of my very first May Day in Berlin, but when I sat down and wrote out my notes the next day, I produced pages and pages of text. So, this is my attempt to reduce everything down to a brief narrative with some pretty pictures. But I won’t keep you in suspense: I wasn’t teargassed or pepper-sprayed or tasered. Most of my day was actually spent wandering around the MyFest street-fair, dancing at a few open-air events, and hanging out with friends. Even the infamous “18Uhr Demo” was mostly peaceful—at least until the end. (Slideshow of 51 images at the end of this article.) (more…)
Translation of sticker over Sarkozy's eyes: “What banker ever complained about universal suffrage?” Sticker by Diktacratie*, an organization that is skeptical of claims to democracy, claiming that the current system doesn't really represent everyone.
t just so happens that my stay in Paris coincides with the final week running up to the first round of the French presidential elections. As you might imagine, the news in Paris is flooded with coverage and speculation. There are very tight laws in France about giving equal media coverage to all election candidates, so mentioning any aspect of the election necessitates also mentioning all the other aspects in equal measure. This makes for daily newspapers that look like textbooks. For example, one small commuter newspaper that I picked up while waiting for a friend offered a “comparative table” of the campaign platforms of all ten candidates. This involved a ten-row table, with so many columns, that it ran over three pages (some sample columns: Immigration, EU Debt Crisis, Environment, Work and Labor, Housing, Crime and the Legal System)—all of it in tiny, tiny print.
As I was passing by the métro station of Lamarck-Caulaincourt (more…)
The view from my very first apartment in Paris, overlooking the boulevard péripherique.
eudi à jeudi, de retour à Paris. I haven’t been back to Paris in more than 1.5 years, which is pretty much the longest stretch of time I’ve been away from this city since the first time I came to do dissertation fieldwork in 2006. My last visit was really just a brief week-long visit (much like this one), so it’s really been 2.5 years or so since I’ve actually lived in this city.
This time, I was struck by how affectively small and un-intense my experience of return was. (more…)
Tony Rohr and Elon at the Volatl/Clink party at DEMF 2010
rüße aus Berlin! I made it back to Berlin after the AAA conference in Montréal, and lately I’ve been something of a shut-in, mostly shunning the nightclubs (and thus neglecting my fieldwork, in a sense) and devoting my time to catching up with job applications, fellowship applications, conference papers, and so on. Nonetheless, I’m still committed to finishing this series of chapter-by-chapter summaries of my dissertation. More than halfway there!
(NOTE: This is the eighth installment of a series where I summarize my dissertation through blog posts. You can find the inaugural post here.)
My main argument in this chapter might sound a bit obvious to people who do any kind of nocturnal partying, but at the same time it’s surprisingly hard to describe and interpret in a coherent way. Essentially, I argue that, when most people go out—or plan on going out, or remember going out—their notion of what makes “a good night out” seems to involve the combination of contrary desires for (more…)
ise Waxer was an ethnomusicologist of salsa music, respected and admired for her critically-acclaimed book tracing the development of salsa music, vinyl recordings, and memory in Colombia, entitled, The City of Musical Memory: Salsa, Record Grooves, and Popular Culture in Cali, Colombia (Wesleyan, 2002). A year later, her book would be awarded the highest prize for a monograph (i.e., single-author book) in her discipline by the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), namely, the Alan Merriam Prize (2003). But Waxer was never able to receive her prize or the well-deserved recognition that came with it, because she died suddenly in the summer of 2002. That fall, at the meeting of SEM where she was also awarded the Merriam Prize, the Popular Music Section of SEM decided to establish an award in her honor: the Lise Waxer Student Paper Prize. To remember her pathbreaking work in the ethnomusicology of popular music, this prize sought “to recognize the most distinguished student paper in the ethnomusicology of popular music presented at the SEM annual meeting.”
Well, the good news is that I won the Lise Waxer Student Paper Prize this year. (more…)
I love me some contrasting stripes. A lovely public art installation in front of UQÀM, Place Pasteur.
ey folks, salut de Montréal! I’ve had “write articles for blog” on my to-do list for the last month or so, but then real life keeps on being inconvenient. At the moment, I’m in Montréal for the AAA meeting (American Anthropological Association), which is a massive 7000-person mega-conference. I gave a paper last Wednesday, spent the rest of the week going to far too many papers, dropped an obscene amount of money at The Bay buying proper Canadian winter clothing, and now I’m preparing to go give a guest lecture in a seminar at UQÀM (Université de Québec à Montréal). I’m still planning on finishing the series of summaries of my dissertation chapters—and I have an interesting report on the BerMuDa weekend in Berlin, too—but here’s a short little thing to tide us all over. Oh, and by the way, I heard that, way over at the Society for Ethnomusicology conference (SEM), I was awarded the Lise Waxer Student Paper prize for the paper I gave last year. Yay! Incidentally, the paper was drawn from one of my dissertation chapters on “liquidarity”.
So, I once made a sort of joke-motto with some fellow humanities grad students that went something like this: “The Humanities: We Make Interestingness.” This was in response to (more…)