dissertation

Fuzzy Intimacies: Cats and Gestures of Intimacy


Not the cat in question. My sister’s cat, Petrarch. He makes a good stand-in.

Just 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…)

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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…)

We Make Interestingness


I love me some contrasting stripes. A lovely public art installation in front of UQÀM, Place Pasteur.

Hey 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…)

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…)

Checking in from Berlin


My name in graffiti on a mail box

I think that's my name as a graffiti tag, on some sort of electrical box on Sonnenallee in Neukölln.

OK, OK. I know that it’s been a while since I’ve checked in on here (since Grenada!) but here’s what I’ve been up to in the past month or so:

  • Travel to and from Grenada
  • Attempt to sell off most of my furniture and my car
  • Get my !@#$ing PhD diploma and attend Convocation with my parents
  • Pack my entire life into boxes, load it into a U-Haul truck while some guy yells at us about blocking the alleyway, and then drive it 8 hours to Canada
  • Store most of my crap at my parents’ place and try to shove the remaining articles into 3 pieces of luggage
  • Remind Canada’s bureaucracy of my continuing existence
  • Spend a week in Toronto seeing friends, visiting old haunts, and having meetings at my alma mater
  • Spend about 20 hours in 3 flights taking me from my hometown to Berlin-town. Screaming babies were a bonus feature
  • Eat roasted chicken from City Chicken (Neukölln) and get plastered on wine and Sekt before finally crashing on my friend’s floor
  • Make a deposit at my Hauptmieterin’s (sublessor) bank account and retrieve the keys to my apartment
  • Schlep my numerous bags to my new apartment and settle in
  • Begin the long process of announcing my presence to the German bureaucracy
  • Struggle endlessly to unlock my iPhone 4 so I can use a reasonably-priced German SIM card
  • Re-stock the kitchen
  • Oversee repairs to the bathroom of my new apartment, which seems to involve plaster and sweaty men (not the sexy kind)
  • Orchestrate and attend reunions with overlapping circles of friends (and attempt not to alienate anyone in the process)
  • Sleep, eventually.

And now I’m in Berlin. (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…)