Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: academia, brownbook, driving, dubai, evens, future gutter status, gonzo ethnography, headspace, ian mackaye, june, justin pickard, malinowski, metanarratives, perfume, sheila heti, sillage, speed, summer, uae
In June, everything was lovely and nothing was bad. I got a tiered mesh tray, and everything was organised. I switched my default gmail font to Georgia, and felt a little bit more articulate. I read a lot of perfume blogs and shamelessly appropriated their beautiful vocabulary. Sillage, chypre, fougère. Head notes, heart notes and base notes; rationality, emotion and ferality.
It’s actually only the eleventh of the month but I’m projecting. Last winter was brutal and May kind of ugly, but June? June is going to be wonderful, I can tell. And now that I’ve swapped Brooklyn for Dubai, there won’t be any winter anymore. The weather is heavy and sticky, but it feels oddly earnest. An overly enthusiastic mouthbreathed hug and both cheeks pinched: unwelcome, but still comforting.
Thus far, June is falling squarely on the Evens end of the IanMacKaye spectrum. You know? The same quiet/loud dynamics and pained intensity, but slower, older, and more restrained. Almost languid. New York meant trying to do too much and making lasagna with exhaustion and anxiety. All this free time now feels extravagant. I even don’t quite know what to do with it, to be honest, save for instagramming everything to make it look the way I feel. But still, it’s there to luxuriate in. Delicious yawning promise, the way summer holidays used to feel.
Or perhaps I feel this way because I’m barely driving, having renewed my long expired license but not, as hoped, the muscle memory. In the U.A.E., you can’t begin taking driving lessons until you turn 18. Even now, driving feels like a strangely adult activity: thrilling and liberating but also a little scary. April to August of my senior year then makes a grand total of five months spent behind the wheel.
Coming from NYC, I used to be alternately frustrated and nervous every time I returned to Dubai. Why did people drive so fast, but walk so slowly? But there’s no longer even any numbing gridlock to break up the blind terror of driving on Sheikh Zayed Road—the arterial highway that literalises the death drive—as a nervous, unpracticed driver. Although with petrol stations running dry (!) across the northern emirates, maybe the roads will change before I have to.
From the day that Salik dawned, with ensuing traffic snarls. A balcony somewhere in what is now TECOM.
I relish the slower pace now, of course. Imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by all your gear, alone on a tropical beach close to a native village. And—there’s so many ways to fill in the blanks, really. Rewrite the same ‘now that I’m back in Dubai…’ piece which seems all the weightier now that I am actually back for a while, in the armchair instead of the stool.
Saratu Abiola has done this gently and particularly elegantly at thisrecording, on the similar return to Lagos. Similar only in sentiment, that is. Dubai is not Lagos or Africa or even my country. Against the odds, though, it functions as my home.
And admittedly, I do have quite a soft spot for the grandiose meta narrative. So satisfiying because it fits, and especially seductive when couched in pretty academicese. In the beginning was the language, and the language was gravity, &c. So I was particularly taken with this quote from an interview with sheila heti suggesting how to be:
When I was younger, I always really wanted to abstract life. More and more as I get older I realize that this abstraction is totally devoid of life. It’s missing something true about life. Every situation is different from every other situation. There is always the temptation to have some big abstract answer, but life is not abstract. That is inaccurate.
Right? This exactly. It’s what draws me to anthropology over other social sciences, and why I’m especially enjoying Brownbook‘s people-driven approach. Particular situations and people. I would also crudely posit that anthro is the most anarchis(h) of social sciences against the made-to-be-marxian history, but that’s for another few thousand words. And there I go totalising again.
So I don’t know how to get beyond this abstracting tendency, and it’s making me put off getting further entrenched in academia. And also move away a little bit from the PhD as means of escape. Escape into what, and funded by whom I don’t know, with the increasingly corporatised university. Wanting to wait until I find a topic I’m utterly thrilled and consumed by, versus going into academia because of the economy, or an extended eight-year shoulder shrug. Suspect this isn’t the way it’s done, though. Grad school still feels inevitable but not so absolutely, manically urgent anymore. Perhaps applying to EGS for these next few Dubai years, though it will scupper my annual leave?
Hauntings, world expos, gonzo journalism, science fiction, systems, geopolitics, utopianism, virtuality, globalisation, the sublime, resilience, collapsonomics, aesthetics, architecture, environmentalism, infrastructure, design, futures studies, sovereignty, atemporality, risk, the nation-state, the uncanny, Americana, technoscience, cyberpunk, multispecies ethnography, fiction, capitalism, the human senses, counterfactual history, media and cyborgs (and media cyborgs)
This said, I don’t care too much for the idea of ‘venture ethnography’ which suggests the slimy embedded anthropologists of the U.S. Human Terrain System. Still. I’ll be headed to the city on seven oases—Al Ain—on Monday for a destinations piece. Worth a go, perhaps.
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