proximity

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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On Being Back in Town: Paris


The view from my very first apartment in Paris, overlooking the boulevard péripherique.

Jeudi 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…)

Pathologizing Crowds: Love Parade 2010, Death, and the Problem of Crowds


Yes, yes, I’m a bit late to be commenting on the tragedy at Duisburg. The story has been covered in print and online endlessly since the event last Saturday, and the German press has been reporting daily on the personal and political aftermath. There’s even a Wikipedia page devoted to the disaster already. In a nutshell: there was a huge turnout at the Love Parade last Saturday (July 24), which was held in Duisburg this year, and overcrowding in the tunnel which served as the only entrance and exit to the even site led to a panic and a stampede, killing 21 and wounding more than 500 (note: initial reports counted 19 dead, but two others succumbed to their wounds a few days later).

I’m not planning to describe the event in any detail. Der Spiegel has been providing thorough English-language and German-language coverage of the event and its aftermath, including descriptive details and arresting photography. I’m also not writing here to respond to the disaster from the point of view of the Electronic Dance Music community; Will Lynch has already provided a clear and concise report of the event at Resident Advisor, and Emmy over at What Time Is Your Flight? has reflected on the impact of this event on dance music/festival communities and has gathered together news coverage and video from the event.

What I want to talk about here is crowds. (more…)

Sightings on the dancefloor


I have a bunch of stuff I want to write about from last weekend—and I’m not even sure I’ll be able to get to all of it—but I wanted to post this note on here before it slips my mind and the affective impact of all of it wears off.

I suspect that I underestimate the extent of my readership. Every once in a while, I meet someone who has been forwarded one of my blog posts through a mutual friend (when I arrived in Berlin for example, nearly all of Bob & Donna’s friends had read at least some of my writing or heard about it). Every time that happens, there’s a brief moment of scary-fun disorientation, where the pleasant surprise of being deemed worthy of reading (and forwarding) collides with the realization that the ever-important “first impression” happened without you—that is, it happened with your text / performance / product instead of with you. It’s sort of like getting caught with your pants down, but with an exhibitionist twist: you kinda like it, but you just wish you had thought to wear more fashionable underwear.

So recently, I’ve had a whole slew of these experiences, including one last night that really surprised me. (more…)

Uncertainty Feels Better


This is the story of why I’m glad that I got a late rejection letter.

[Hi! I’m back. This is my new blog, where I move away from the old post-every-day model, and instead focus on a few specific things. See the “about” page for more details.]

So a lot has happened since the last time I posted something on my old blog, and a lot of can’t really be recounted in a public forum like this one. What I can say is that:

  • I’ve written two more chapters. Four in total so far. Yay!
  • My sense of being supported and respected by my program has been profoundly damaged, and the events that led to that damage also led me into a financially precarious situation for next year (when my funding runs out).
  • The month of March has been particularly cruel in this regard, since this is when results for fellowships and job searches usually arrive. I’ve become something of a connoisseur of rejection letters.

Now to the story.

This past weekend, I put myself in a 5-day lockdown to finish my fourth chapter in time for a March 30th due date. At the beginning of this period, my stress levels had become such that I was only sleeping a couple of hours a night and I had erratic episodes of elevated heartbeat (which I think is what a low-level panic attack is supposed to feel like, but I digress). In sum, I was under a lot of stress and was feeling defeated both by events in the recent past as well as challenges looming on the horizon ahead of me.

Then, I heard from a couple of classmates that they received their rejection letters for the ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship the week before. Where’s my rejection letter? Why is the response taking so long? Is it maybe that I’m going to get a fat envelope instead of a thin one this time? Excited by the possibility of securing $25,000USD to support my dissertation work next year, I scoured the internet for information on when the award letters were sent out. I looked at several wiki pages dedicated to humanities fellowships and discovered that the response letters had been sent out almost two weeks earlier. Clearly, my (hopefully good) news would be arriving in the mail any day now.

This morning, when I went to campus to take care of some paperwork, I discovered that my letter hadn’t been delayed; it had just been sent to my academic mailbox. As you might’ve guessed from the first line of this blog post, it wasn’t an acceptance letter.

But here’s the funny thing. As depressing as the news was, I was really glad to learn of this news today and not five days ago. (more…)