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Chapter 5. Smooth Experience/Rough Experience: Coming Undone and the Night Out


Tony Rohr and Elon at the Volatl/Clink party at DEMF 2010

Grüße 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…)

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Chapter 4. Thickening Something: Music, Affect, and the Sense of the Social


Detroit Electronic Music Festival, 2010

Detroit Electronic Music Festival, 2010

Okay. It’s been nearly three months since my dissertation defense, two months since my graduation, and two weeks since I moved to Berlin. Things have been crazy busy, but I’m still determined to finish this series of chapter summaries. It’s a surprising amount of work to summarize this gigantic, sprawling thing as a series of “plain English” blog posts. Anyway, here comes the affect!

(NOTE: This is the seventh installment of a series where I summarize my dissertation through blog posts. You can find the inaugural post here.)

This chapter is about tracing the connections between intensity and togetherness. The full version of this chapter wades into a fair bit of theory, but I’ll try to keep things streamlined here. Essentially, this is how I go about tracing the connections: (more…)

Chapter 3. Liquidarity: Vague Belonging on the Dancefloor


Mutek, Montréal, 2010

Yes, I know that it’s been more than two weeks since I defended my dissertation, and yet this chapter-by-chapter series on my dissertation is not even halfway finished. This is partially due to the fact that I had to take care of post-defense revisions and re-submit a final draft to the university before an immovable deadline. But this is also partially due to the fact that I partied and relaxed and partied and relaxed for quite a few days after the defense itself. I regret nothing.

(NOTE: This is the sixth installment of a series where I summarize my dissertation through blog posts. You can find the inaugural post here.)

So, this chapter expands the analysis of intimacy from the previous chapter to the broader scope of nightclub crowds. Whereas the previous chapter thought about intimacy primarily as contact between a pair of strangers, this chapter focuses on the loose social bonds that hold together a crowd of strangers at an EDM event (a party, a nightclub, etc). I develop a concept that I call liquidarity (more…)

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. (more…)

Chapter 2, Part 2: Gender, Sexual Touch, and Rethinking Intimacy


Splendor in the Grass

Splendor in the Grass: the residue of pleasure in Lakeshore Park, Chicago

Although the first half of this chapter describes EDM events as intensely tactile spaces where there is a greater openness to touch, it’s not like everyone at a nightclub is hungry for touch—sexual or otherwise—nor is everybody all that tolerant of being touched. And yet, touch is everywhere at EDM events. How does that work? How someone manages this diversity of attitudes towards touch in a crowd of strangers is one of the more obscure aspects of EDM tactility, (more…)

Chapter 2, Part 1: Touching Strangers: Touch and Intimacy on the Dancefloor


Somewhere in Paris, 11eme arr., 2006

Back when I had just returned from my second year of fieldwork in Paris, I had this great moment of short-circuited intimacy. I was at Souvenir#3 warehouse party (with Seuil headlining), when a woman came up and introduced herself as a Lola, a friend of some friends I had in Chicago. We talked briefly, and then went back to dancing. More than twelve hours later, as I was leaving the after-party, our mutual friend asks me and Lola if we had met each other. Lola replied, “Of course! We’re best friends,” and we gave each other a big hug and a peck on the cheek. When I wrote about it on my old blog a few days later, (more…)

‘Can You Feel It, Too?’: Affect and Intimacy at EDM Events in Paris, Chicago, and Berlin


Steve Bug at Freak n' Chic (in Batofar, Paris), September 2008

As I had mentioned in my last so-sorry-I’ve-been-gone post, I’m still putting the finishing touches on my dissertation ahead of my defense (which will happen in July, it seems). But I don’t want to slip away into another 2-month period of blog-silence, so I’ve given myself a dissertation-related blog project for the next couple of weeks.

Every couple of days, I’ll be posting brief summaries of parts of my dissertation, beginning with today’s overview and then following chapter by chapter. These will be written in plain English and in the informal style typical of most blog posts. These summaries serve three purposes: 1) as reading guides, to help non-specialist readers read my dissertation when it is published; 2) as practice for my defense, since this forces me to review all of my arguments and organize them in my head; and 3) as “reading excerpts” for people who might be interested in reading the full dissertation, but aren’t sure. In any case, my goal is to make these all short and easy to read.

Today’s post is about the dissertation as a whole, and gives you an overview of what the dissertation is about, how it’s structured, what my methods were, and so on.  My dissertation project arose out of a relatively simple observation: (more…)