o, last week, an article of mine was published on Resident Advisor, entitled “An alternate history of sexuality in club culture.” It’s success was truly surprising—especially considering that the whole thing ran well over 8,000 words long! Despite its exceptional length, one of the hardest challenges I had in writing this article was to keep it short(er), because there was just so much to write about. That’s also a good thing, in the sense that it means that there’s still a lot to say about queer nightlife and club culture, but I was especially pained to have only included a few brief quotes from the fantastic email-interview I did with Terre Thaemlitz/DJ Sprinkles. Despite being a very busy producer, speaker, alternative historian, etc., she was immensely generous with her time, answering all of my questions in great detail. It seemed a tragedy that most of the interview wouldn’t make it into the RA article, so I’ve arranged to have the full interview published here (more…)
La Mission: Life in a Hedonist-Doomsday-Cult-Art-Collective
a 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…)
Talking Culture, Money, and Music: Anti-GEMA Protests
esterday, 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)
ast 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…)
Another Post-Bar25 Update
ecently, there’s been some more news on the Holzmarkt/Mörchenpark project. The city has changed its plans for the property that’s up for sale, and this might benefit the bid and development proposal put forward by the Holzmart/Mörchenpark team. In a recent article in the Berliner Zeitung (from which I’m getting most of my information for this update), the author Karin Schmidl summarizes the changes thusly: “No high-rises, no office-building monolith, no hotel blocks.” Whose development proposal was already free of all these things? That’s right: Holzmarkt.
As you might recall (more…)
Doing Nightlife Fieldwork II: Going Out
uckily, I managed to find a bit of time today to write this second part to this series, so I won’t be saddled with guilt about making promises to write more on my blog and then not fulfilling them. Yay productivity! So, to review: yesterday I wrote “Doing Nightlife Fieldwork,” which claimed that there wasn’t enough helpful writing out there on how to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in nightlife scenes. It’s a problem, I think, that we don’t at least have a shared idea of what “best practices” would look like; this is an important ethical and institutional issue for EDM studies, for sure. I listed a few ways that nightlife settings throw a wrench in conventional ethnographic methods and invited other folks to write in the comments and/or write response-posts on their own blogs. The comments have already been great, and there’s talk of a few of my EDM-scholars-with-blogs buddies preparing their own posts. Today, I’m going to focus on one of the main elements of music ethnography: attending music events and engaging in participant-observation. I’ll describe how (more…)
Doing Nightlife Fieldwork
ouldn’t it be great if there were a book entitled, “How To Do Fieldwork in Nightclubs and Bars?” Certainly, when I was working on my own dissertation, I wished that other nightlife-researchers would be more open about their methods and more generous about giving advice to new ethnographers of nocturnal scenes. To be honest, a fair number of nightlife-researchers have published some details about their methods; it’s usually tucked away discreetly in an appendix or in a section of the introductory chapter. But these brief methodological reflections often lack too much detail to be instructive and—frankly—I’m not always satisfied with their solutions to the problems of nightlife fieldwork. Despite all my griping, I have been guided by the methods of some nightlife researchers, such as Fiona Buckland in her book Impossible Dance: Club Culture and Queer World-Making (2002).
In any case, very few nightlife ethnographers actually describe their research methods in detail, even though the circumstances of nocturnal scenes often pose difficult challenges to conventional fieldwork methods. Just a few of these are: (more…)
espite having just flown back from Canada two days ago, I’m already back into the nocturnal rhythms of Berlin. In fact, I used jet-lag to my advantage: I got home in the early morning, slept during the day, got up at 8pm, and then got ready for a night at Watergate (the Vakant + Dumb Unit label night). And then, the same routine the next day for the Final Friday night at Panorama Bar, with Margaret Dygas, Cassy, and Dinky (and Matthew Styles). Now, I’m making use of a brief pocket of quiet while my houseguest sleeps to post this message. In a couple of hours, we’ll have dinner, count down to midnight at a friend’s house, nap until 6am, and then head out to the insane Silvester party at Berghain/Panoramabar. The line-up features primarily the nightclub’s resident DJs, but there are also a few guests (e.g., Soundstream, Deetron) and even a few surprises (i.e., Andrew Butler of Hercules and Love Affair). The whole thing runs from Saturday midnight until late Monday, and will require a couple of cycles of dance+go home+nap+eat+dance.
It’s been interesting to see how the massive influx of tourists has impacted Berlin’s nightlife in these past days. Thursday night at Watergate involved a ridiculously long line (for a Thursday) and a crowd that seemed to be primarily populated by tourists (including tourists from other parts of Germany, mind you). I made the acquaintance of two guys from Munich, one from Beirut (Lebanon), one from Chile, and several American ex-pats (now living in Berlin). And, of course, there were French- and Italian-speakers everywhere, mostly making themselves noticeable because they can’t seem to resist the temptation to try to jump the queue for the door, the bathrooms, the bar, etc.
Friday at Panoramabar was similar but different: there were tons of tourists in the queue for the door, but proportionally less of them seemed to make it in—or, rather, only certain kinds of tourists seemed to make it past the bouncers. The queue was insanely long when we arrived around 1am (which was admittedly far too early for Berliners and part of the reason why the proportion of tourists was so high), running all the way back to where the taxis were. The wait would probably be 1.5-2 hours. I was with 3 friends, so I left two of them at the back of the line, and then I went to the door with one of my friends and approached the door. Since I’ve been something of a regular at the place, I was relatively confident that I could walk directly to the door and the doormen would wave me in, but I was less certain that I could bring in 3 other people. So, my strategy was to approach the door with one other person, and then ask if I could bring in two more people. As I expected, the doorman Andrej saw me and waved me in. “A quick question,” I said in German, “I still have two other friends stuck at the back of the line. Could I bring them in with me?” “Only two?” he said, sternly. “Yes, yes. Just two more people.” “OK, fine.” And, with that, I ran back to the far end of the line, picked up my other 2 friends, and went in. The rest of the night was too long and crazy to relate here, but suffice it to say that I met a lot of locals, non-local Germans, local ex-pats, frequent visitors, and tourists.
OK, time to go gird my loins! I have a lot of hard work ahead of me.
The Techno Jet-Set: Tourism, Mobility, and Money in Berlin’s EDM Scenes
s I was conducting an interview a couple of nights ago, I realized that I didn’t have a publicly-accessible and easily-readable description of my current research project on so-called “techno-tourism.” If you read my article on the Spreepark party in Resident Advisor last fall, you probably already have an idea of what this project is about: the waves of travelers coming to Berlin for its nightlife scenes, many of them enjoying a kind of international mobility that used to be the exclusive domain of wealthy “jet-set” elites. The framing of my project is pretty much directly indebted to Tobias Rapp’s book (Lost and Sound: Berlin, Techno und the Easy Jet Set, 2010) and his coining of the word “EasyJetSet,” which highlights the similarities to and differences from an earlier era of luxury “jet-setter” tourism.
There’s a lot to be said about this project, about the earlier research that has been done on tourism, the economic and social factors, and so on, but here’s a concise summary of the most relevant points. (more…)
Chapter 5. Smooth Experience/Rough Experience: Coming Undone and the Night Out
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…)