Lars blogs

Call for Papers: Absence. Materiality, embodiment, resistance.

Thu, 17 Dec 2009

I am happy to announce that I will be co-organizing a session at next year’s RGS-IBG conference in London (September 1-3). Here is the text of the call for papers:

Convenors: Lars Frers (University of Oslo); Lars Meier (Institute for Employment Research, Nürnberg); Erika Sigvardsdotter (Uppsala University)

What is missing, for whom and why? How does that, which is absent, relate to the things and people that are present? In this session we wish to engage with the intersections of the material and emotional qualities of absence, focussing on the fact that absence is all but a void, manifesting itself in concrete places, people and things; that it is embodied and enacted.
To feel something’s absence, it needs to be part of a temporal pattern, it has to be a part of what is expected; something that used to be present. A factory is shut down, workers gone, and with them the sounds and smells of work. Yet all of these sensual experiences may be evoked by a whiff of a machine’s scent, by a familiar chink or a rusty tool laying around. Exploring the materiality of absence, we want to improve the understanding of how remembrances of things past and people gone are realized in things and people present. Establishing absence may also be part or result of power-related negotiations. As legal residuals of border regulation, irregular migrants are absent in a jurisdiction; off the grid, uncountable and unable to complain if abused or exploited. Yet, their presence is unquestionable. Although being able to exercise that presence may be a long term goal, absence – from conspicuous places, from view and immigration officer’s radars, can be a situational tactic necessary for their survival. However, managing absence, controlling the traces and the materialities that might make the absent present can also be a long-term strategy. Research into climate change can be understood as work trying to overcome the resistance of the material by digging up traces that show that something is there even it may usually be absent.
The absence–presence ambivalence can be worked in various ways; a presence suggesting the absent, the seemingly absent becoming present in flesh and blood, or as a merely suggested, ghostlike presence.

Possible session topics:

  • Remembrances: Emotions, memory and the materiality of absence.
  • Contestations of what and who is absent/present.
  • Practices and the managing of absence.

In the session, we want to discuss different characteristics of absence and their interrelations. To achieve this we will focus on concrete experiences and examples of absence and we welcome presentations that display the sensual and material qualities of absence.

Please submit a 300 word abstract for a 20 minute presentation (including title, presenter’s name and affiliation) before 31st January 2010 to:

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The route, the body & the view. Investigations into agency and perception along the Norwegian Tourist Route.

Thu, 12 Nov 2009

This is the title of the presentation that I gave last week. I was very kindly invited to present my work on the Norwegian Tourist Route in the research seminar of Uppsala University’s Department of Social and Economic Geography. As usual, I recorded the presentation on my laptop and I have now uploaded it. If you have a modern web browser like Firefox (3.5 and up), Safari (3.1 and up) or Chrome, you can watch the video right here.

The whole presentation took about an hour – it was very nice for me to be able to talk about my work with enough time to allow for the inclusion of a substantial amount of what some people call data (there are five video clips and a lot of photographs included in the presentation). The discussion after the talk and later in the evening was really productive and the whole atmosphere of the visit was very welcoming and nice. I extend my heartfelt thanks to the great folks in Uppsala!

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Spam conferences.

Fri, 16 Oct 2009

Today I got an e-mail from Prof. Nikos E. Mastorakis <> with the loong subject line:

Dear Professor Frers, As invited author, you are entitled publication of your paper in the ISI Proceedings, Books and Journals of the WSEAS [my e-mail address] ( reply only to )

How nice!, I thought, Somebody recognized my academic brilliance and is inviting me to a conference!. More flattery follows and then come several lists and promises of how many books I will get for free if I attend the conference, that they will publish my paper in some kind of journal which will be cited and listed in a gazillion of indices etc. By then, I was already pretty suspicious and the effect of the flattery sadly had to subside. There was just too much information about how academically excellent this conference would be, how much I personally would benefit from it, and there were some other, more interesting suggestions: The location they gave for the conference is Penang, Malaysia and guess what the picture on the conference website shows? Yup. A beach lined with palm trees…
When I then went on to search the internet for terms like wseas strange, wseas spam or wseas scam, I had to dig through many, many pages that all were somehow linked to the organization that hosts the conference itself. They are very clever in linking to papers that have the words spam or scam in them, so that you will somehow land in one of their domains when you actually are looking for sources not connected to them. They even have pseudo blogs of their own. With a bit of effort you will find the few places that are independent and they certainly don’t have a lot of good things to say about the scheme. (The best that you will find are the CVs and publication lists of people who seem to have attended one of the many conferences hosted by the WSEAS.) The registration fee is between 500 and 550 Euros. On the page where they give information about the conference fee, you see two women in bikinis lounging beside a crystal blue swimming pool… Got the idea?
So you have a strange mix of appealing on the one hand to a huge career benefit in terms of publishing in well-indexed journals and on the other hand of hanging out at a beach, probably mixed with an exciting erotic adventure. Who wouldn’t submit a paper? Well, I haven’t found a report of anyone who actually participated in one of these conferences, but I am quite sure it would be an interesting read. But I guess the incentives for disclosing this kind of information are not very … existent. Good subject for a field study, of course. Other than that, I would be glad if my e-mail inbox could be kept free of this kind of pseudo-academic money making scheme that eats away my time and attention.

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Herausfordernde Materialitäten : Gegenstände, Methoden, Konzepte.

Tue, 06 Oct 2009

Gestern habe ich in meinem Postfach hier in Oslo die neueste Ausgabe der Berichte zur deutschen Landeskunde gefunden. Das mag merkwürdig erscheinen, war aber schon heiß ersehnt, denn es handelt sich um das Themenheft Materielle Welt in der Humangeographie, für das ich einen Beitrag eingereicht habe. Den musste ich nach dem Peer Review noch einmal überarbeiten, aber nun erblickt er das Licht der Welt. Sollte man ein sozialwissenschaftliches Interesse am Themenfeld Materialität haben, dann lohnt es sich sicher, einmal eine Blick in das Themenheft zu werfen – die Berichte sind in den meisten deutschen Universitätsbibliotheken verfügbar.

In this article I engage with the challenges posed by studying materialities on several levels. Firstly, I delineate the potential problems that can arise when one is using a category like materiality which has the potential of becoming a deterministic factor in the analysis. While often being naturalized instead of being politicized, it has to be understood as being integral to social practices. Secondly, using video-analysis, I demonstrate the methodological challenges of working with materialities. Thirdly, I emphasize the importance of temporality. Materialities unfold their specific qualities only in temporal processes that encompass actors, things and others. Fourthly, I present the phenomenologically anchored concepts envelopment and Wahrnehmungshandeln (perception-action), showing how materialities participate in perception-actions. Finally, I investigate how an open approach to the challenges of materiality prioritizes ambivalences instead of dichotomies in the analysis

Die vollständige bibliografische Angabe lautet:
Frers, Lars (2009), Herausfordernde Materialitäten : Gegenstände, Methoden, Konzepte, Berichte zur deutschen Landeskunde, 83(2), S. 177-191.

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Route interruptus. A Study of Fatigue, Erosion and other material agencies at rest stops of the Norwegian Tourist Route.

Sun, 30 Aug 2009

first slide of the presentationThis week, I found myself in Manchester once more. I was called to port by the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS-IBG), which might just be my favorite disciplanary organisation conference. Small enough to allow one to meet people frequently, diverse enough to collect many different approaches, and – in the fields of interest for me – open for risky submissions, non-standard formats and innovative presentations. In addition, you will usually find a session or two where people speak very openly about the difficulties of their field work – both on an intellectual but, even more important, also on an emotional level. I guess most of these kinds of sessions are convened and chaired by female researchers that are still in the first decade of their careers… hopefully this is not only an age-related thing but a generational change that continues even when people advance further in their academic standing.
This is what I talked about:

Things, people, and information do not flow without resistances. In this presentation, I will delve into the bodily and material aspects of mobility, displaying how bodily fatigue and the erosion of matter intersect at rest stops along the Norwegian Tourist Route. On this route, the impressive fjord landscape is framed and presented to the travelers at several rest stops that have been artistically designed. Combining video analysis and photography with ethnographic fieldwork, the study focuses on the mundane everyday life, on the resistances as well as the attractions that guide the perception and action of those who spend some time at these places. Particular attention will also be paid to the ways in which the practices that happen at this place change the place itself – situationally but also in a slower, long-term process that will be explored by quasi-archeological investigations into the traces and the detritus that gather at these places. Thus it will be shown how material and bodily processes challenge and undermine the framed presentation of landscape – but it will also be shown that these processes bear a potential of delightful pleasures, unintended uses, and subtle reconfigurations of the socio-spatial order of these places.

As usual, I have recorded the presentation so that you can download and watch it yourself (16 minutes):
Ogg Theora movie (35.5 MB, play with VLC) | QuickTime movie (29.3 MB, play with QuickTime).

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Geld für Worte.

Tue, 11 Aug 2009

Es hat mich immer interessiert, wie das mit der VG Wort eigentlich funktioniert und vor allem natürlich, wieviel Geld man denn nun eigentlich für Bücher und Artikel bekommt. Da dieses Geld durch Zahlungen von der (bundesdeutschen) Allgemeinheit zusammenkommt – zum Beispiel als Aufpreis beim Kauf von Druckern, Scannern und Kopierern – will ich hier Rechenschaft darüber ablegen, wieviel von dem Geld wofür auf meinem Konto gelandet ist.
Ich habe beim letzten Kalenderjahrwechsel zum ersten Mal fristgerecht einen Antrag bei der VG Wort eingereicht (man muss der VG Wort zur Erstanmeldung ein Formular per Post schicken, deshalb hat es im Jahr davor nicht geklappt - weshalb mir ein Buchbeitrag von 2006 durch die Lappen gegangen ist). Hier die Liste der Ausschüttung mit den unterschiedlichen Posten:

  1. 2006 Fachbücher: 27,50 € (Mitherausgeber)
  2. 2007 Buchbeiträge: 37,51 € (Kapitel in einem deutschen und einem britischen Sammelband, zusammen 39 Seiten)
  3. 2007 Fachbücher: 490,00 € (Buch ~89000 Worte, Mitherausgeber)
  4. 2008 Buchbeiträge: 3,00 € (Enzyklopädiebeitrag, 2 Seiten)
  5. 2008 Zeitschriftenbeiträge: 28,50 € (Buchbesprechung in einer englischsprachigen Fachzeitschreift, 19 Seiten)
  6. Summe: 586,51 €

Ich fand es wirklich spannend, diese Liste zu sehen und habe mich natürlich auch über das Geld gefreut, das ich zur Zeit sehr gut gebrauchen kann. Allerdings muss man einschränkend sagen, dass die Veröffentlichung meines Buches beim transcript Verlag mich über 2400 Euro gekostet hat (von denen das Graduiertenkolleg immerhin 1333 Euro als Druckkostenzuschuss getragen hat).
Wer wissen möchte, welche Titel hinter den Beiträgen stehen, kann diese Liste mit der Liste meiner Veröffentlichungen abgleichen.

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Video research in the open. Encounters involving the researcher-camera.

Tue, 04 Aug 2009

cover of the book 'Video Interaction AnalysisA few months ago, the book Video Interaction Analysis – Methods and Methodology, edited by Ulrike Tikvah Kissmann has been published. Since this is my first purely methodological publication, I am really looking forward to see how it is received. The opening paragraph of my chapter reads like this:

Filming is an encounter. The person wielding the camera, the camera itself, and the people and things around them enter a dynamic relationship. This relationship unfolds itself according to the rules set by the social, spatial, and material features and practices that constitute it. These features and practices constitute it, but they do not determine it in a linear way – too many contingencies enter the interaction process, disrupting, changing, or reorienting it. […] In this essay, I will focus on the surprising, unplanned side of doing video research, pointing out both the risks and the opportunities that are part and parcel of filming non-staged everyday life in public settings.

After discussing how I am located in the social field as a researcher – in connection to Bourdieu’s discussion of the social field – I switch dimensions and start to discuss my position in the material field:

But what about the position in the material field? Is that not the same thing as the geographical location? In the way that materiality is conceptualized for this essay, there is more to this position than physical location. Drawing both on Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the body (Merleau-Ponty, 1962; Merleau-Ponty and Lefort, 1968) and on works published in the wide field of science and technology studies (Garfinkel et al., 1981; Latour, 1987; Pickering, 1995), I want to propose that the position I take as a bodily actor in the material field at least temporarily becomes that of a hybrid of man and machine: a camera-researcher. The way I position myself is guided by the way I observe with and as the camera, by the way the camera observes with and as me.

These are the two main conceptual vectors which propel the discussion forward: a focus on the open-ended encounters that constitute the field work itself, and an STS focus that helps the analysis to not take the camera itself for granted, making it disappear behind the hand and the eye of the researcher. Equipped with this two vectors, I try to thrust into some problematic aspects of ethnographic research in general and of video-based research in particular.

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Living the beach. Eyes, Feet and, of course, Hearts.

Sat, 01 Aug 2009

picture of the first slide of my presentation, showing a stormy beachAfter leaving the conference on creative destruction in Leipzig, I had to take a night train to get to the next academic event, the conference ‘Twixt Land and Sea: The Beach in Literature, Film and Cultural Theory, which was hosted by the University of Berne in Switzerland. I was really saddened that I missed the first two days of the conference, but somehow my e-mail address got off the list for the beaches conferences so that I assumed that it would not take place at all and submitted an abstract for the overlapping conference in Leipzig. The confusion created a Lars that felt a bit ruffled when he arrived in Berne the next morning, having only an hour to get himself straightened up – which succeeded only partially, so that the talk that I gave there was really, really flooded with ehms and, even worse, more than a hundred (no joke!) kind ofs. However, since I otherwise think that the content is worth the while, I got myself reacquainted with my video editing software (Final Cut Express) and edited out most of these annoying fillers. I really hope that the audience did not think I am totally stupid/deviant during the presentation… Whatever. Here is the abstract of the presentation.

The encounter with the beach opens up a new, wide horizon. The eyes can roam over dunes, the shore line, the waves and the many or few bodies of others. Should the temperature allow for it, shoes will be tossed and toes can dig into the grainy sand. The physicality of the beach merges with the corporality of the body. Looking and walking around people perceive themselves in concert with their surroundings. This act of perceiving is not a passive observation, to the contrary, it is a sensual and emotional involvement; it is acting towards yourself, towards material things, social ideals and corporeal others.
In this presentation I will use video and audio recordings to analyze and display how the beach is constituted in human interactions. Usually, "living the beach" is cast as holiday experience. However, in times of climate change another layer of complexity is added to the multi-dimensional experience of the beach. The heart is not only moved by sunsets and flirtations, or the scare of drowning in the ocean, it is also faced with the possible submersion of the landscape in which it thrives. If perceiving the changes created by global warming in everyday life is connected with the experience of your own corporeal self, then it is interesting to examine how climate change enters the sensual relation to the world around you – instead of existing only in the media, on maps and scientific reports. I will try to get a grip on this relationship between the bodily self, climate change and everyday experience to open up a new perspective on the effects of global warming and rising sea levels.

You can also check out the conference program (PDF). As usual, I have recorded the presentation so that you can download and watch it yourself (29 minutes):
Ogg Theora movie (46.3 MB, play with VLC) | QuickTime movie (38.9 MB, play with QuickTime).

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Erschöpfung und Erosion. Eine Phänomenologie der Handlungsmacht des Natürlichen.

Thu, 30 Jul 2009

Bild der ersten Folie meines VortragsAm 18. und 19. Juni konnte ich erfreulicherweise auf der wirklich spannenden gemeinsamen Tagung der Sektionen Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung und Umweltsoziologie der DGS einen Vortrag halten. Zum Glück habe ich während des Vortrags die Verwendung von Füllwörtern wie sozusagen,halt,eben und so weiter einigermaßen im Griff gehabt, so dass es mir nicht zu unangenehm ist, die Aufnahme des Vortrags hier im Internet zur Verfügung zu stellen. (Üblicherweise nutze ich die Möglichkeit mit meiner Präsentationssoftware, Apples Keynote, einen Vortrag aufzuzeichnen. Nicht immer ist die Qualität gut genug zur Weitergabe, aber in jedem Fall ist es genauso schmerzhaft wie lehrreich, sich den eigenen Vortrag mit etwas Abstand noch einmal anzuschauen.) Hier jedenfalls das Abstract für den Vortrag und im Anschluss der Verweis zum aufgezeichneten Video.

Aufbauend auf einer Studie über besonders eindrucksvoll gestaltete Aussichts- und Rastplätze auf der Norwegischen Tourismus Route ( will ich in dieser Präsentation die Wirk- oder Handlungsmacht des Natürlichen thematisieren. Im Vordergrund steht dabei weniger eine Diskussion des Natürlichen als Kategorie, sondern vielmehr die agency, die sich an diesen Orten entfaltet. Der Norwegische Tourismusverbund und das staatliche Verkehrswesen präsentieren diese Orte als Modellhaft. Hier zeigt sich die norwegische Landschaft in ihrer vollen Pracht - und zwar gerahmt durch spezifisch skandinavisches Design. Diese Orte sind in der Tat beispielhaft für die Kategorie des Sublimen – Natur zeigt sich hier genauso schön wie schrecklich. Was bedeutet dies jedoch im Alltag dieser Orte? Im Zentrum der hier präsentierten Untersuchung steht sowohl die langsam zerstörende Wirkung der Erosion wie auch der plötzliche Eingriff eines Wetterereignisses. Im Sinne einer Phänomenologie des hier untersuchten Ortes begrenzt sich die Untersuchung des Natürlichen aber nicht auf das Natürliche ausserhalb des eigenen Körpers. Die eigene Natur ist mit eingeschlossen und sie ist in sehr konkreter Weise ein entscheidender Anlass für den Halt an einem Ort. Die Erschöpfung einer längeren Reise im Auto, der ordinäre Druck der Blase – auch diese natürlich-leiblichen Prozesse treten hier zu Tage und prägen den kreativen Umgang mit der Materialität und sozialen Normung dieser Orte. Anhand von Fotografien, Videomaterial und ethnografischen Aufzeichnungen wird in dieser Präsentation des große Potential einer offenen Auseinandersetzung mit technisierten Räumen der Mobilität aufgezeigt – einer Auseinandersetzung in der die prozesshafte und oft unerwartete Verquickung von Handlungen, Wahrnehmungen, Ereignissen und Routinen in ihrer ganzen Spannungsgeladenheit thematisiert wird.
Videoaufzeichnung des Vortrags (30 min):
Ogg Theora Video (49.4 MB, abspielen mit VLC)
QuickTime Video (62.2 MB, abspielen mit QuickTime)

Die Tagung lief unter dem vielversprechenden Titel Technik und die Wiederkehr der Natur – Zur Ästhetik der schöpferischen Zerstörung und wurde am Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung in Leipzig ausgerichtet.

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Research on space & art.

Wed, 29 Jul 2009

Three weeks ago, Alexander Schellow and I conducted a workshop called spatial research at the advanced performance training part of the apass school in Antwerp, Belgium. I was a bit anxious about the workshop, even though Alexander and I tried to prepare as well as we could for an open-ended and individualized workshop setting such as the one we offered for the people in Antwerp. I guess the anxiety stemmed from the fact that I did not have any experience in teaching artists and therefore was not sure if our interaction would be productive or not.

To my relief, the cooperation was great – two of my main qualifications (knowledge about social theories of space & spatiality on the one hand, experience with different ethnographic field-work settings on the other hand) were very useful for them and the participants really tapped me for all of the advice that I could give them. Of course, what they do with that advice is different when compared to people from a university setting. But there was more than enough overlap to make the experience highly stimulating for me too. As I posted on Facebook: Artist may not be the better sociologists, but they can be sociologesques with brilliant ideas!
To give you a bit more information to work with: One project posed the greatest difficulties but – exactly because of that – it also was the most productive for all involved. One of the students is interested in violence and bodily injury – so we decided that for the short time that we have for the workshop (about two days in the field) he might want spend some time in the entrance area of a hospital, to get a feeling for how physical pain, injuries and sickness embed themselves and are produced in a specific place. When he spent time in the area, he took photographs, which obviously got him into trouble quite quickly. But after a stressful encounter with the hospital staff, some attempts at repairing trust by Alexander and me, several talks about this, and the ritualized deletion of the pictures, the student/artist developed a really excellent presentation that very forcefully evoked a feeling of the place, of the presence and abscence of the place in his presentation, of the loss of the photographs, and of the ambivalence of privacy, voyeurism, pain and empathy. It was more than thrilling – and it was only one of the many really excellent projects that the participants came up with in only a week. In a way, one could say that this was a first encounter with non-representational theory made practice.

If you want to take a brief look at the some of the things that people came up with, you can check the description of the workshop on the web, where some of the projects are presented (the links to the individual projects are in the box on the left side of the page).

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bonni wrote (2009/7/29 23:00):

That sounds really exciting! Really curious to see / hear more of the artists' results. :)

My first peer-reviewed article: now available!

Tue, 09 Jun 2009

It might seem strange that one can have a PhD degree for two years and still not have published a single peer-reviewed article. Strange especially to those who are used to the social science biz in the English-speaking world. Well, things are different in Germany. You will find lots of highly successful and respected people who publish almost exclusively in book form – either by writing complete monographs or by contributing chapters to edited volumes. I do not find anything wrong with this culture (except for the fact that publications will usually be German only and that only little non-German debate will be acknowledged in many of these publications). But, as everybody that is on the academic job market these days knows: those darned international peer-reviewed articles are what job descriptions and scholarship programs request with growing force.
Because of that pressure, I decided to overcome my reservations and prior frustrations regarding peer-review. As always, once you have jumped on a new ship, you like it and think it is the best thing in the world. So now I am happy to be able to say: I am one of them! A real scientist with a peer-reviewed publication in a well ranked international journal. So, this is a cause for celebration for me. In addition, getting this published also showed some of the good sides of peer-review, since I got really useful and encouraging feedback, which definitely improved the article.
The article is called Space, materiality and the contingency of action: a sequential analysis of the patient's file in doctor—patient interactions and it has been published in the June 2009 issue of Discourse Studies. This is the abstract:

Focusing on the multi-dimensionality of interactional settings, this study analyzes how the material world is a significant factor in the sequential co-production of the video-taped doctor—patient interactions. The analysis shows how a material artifact, the patient's file, is relevant in two ways: a) as a device which is employed in the sequential organization of the interaction. The patient's file is being used in the contexts of topic development and topic change. b) The file with its specific physical and symbolic features is being co-produced and contested by both actors as a knowledge reservoir. Further inspection of the interactions in concert with theoretical reflections of the role of space and materiality suggests that interactions should be interpreted as happening in spatially arranged constellations of material objects and actors. In these both rigid and flexible constellations boundaries are established, access is distributed, and meaning is solidified.

It is a real conversation analysis (CA) piece, something that I am quite proud of since I really enjoy CA even though I do not have the opportunity to work in this field as much as I would like to.

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bonni wrote (2009/7/8 16:26):


Finanzmanager in Singapur und das Einpassen in den Ort – von Lars Meier.

Sun, 24 May 2009

Der Schweizer Radiosender DRS 2 hat einen sehr schönen Beitrag über das Buch von Lars Meier produziert. Wer mehr über das Leben von Finanzmanagern in Singapur, über koloniale Images und die Wichtigkeit des Ortes für die eigene Identitätsbildung wissen möchte, sollte sich den Beitrag (26:35 min) auf jeden Fall herunterladen oder gleich online anhören.

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Feuer aus den Schützengräben.

Tue, 07 Apr 2009

In einem kurzen Essai zur Einleitung von Merleau-Pontys Phänomenologie der Wahrnehmung habe ich zu Anfang meiner Beschäftigung mit der Phänomenologie geschrieben, dass ich befürchte, in das Feuer disziplinärer Schützengräben zu geraten. Das ist nun passiert. Im Sinne des Rechenschaft Ablegens auch und gerade über die dunkleren Seiten des wissenschaftlichen Alltags will ich hier nicht nur von positiven Rezensionen berichten.
Der Beschuss kam aus unerwarteter Richtung: von Seiten phänomenologisch orientierter Sozialwissenschaft und also nicht von Vertretern etablierterer Theorierichtungen. Die Besprechung stammt von Jürgen Hasse und ist in der Geographischen Zeitschrift (95: 105-106) abgedruckt worden. Die Werbung, die mein Verlag aus der Rezension von Jürgen Hasse herauskondensiert hat, hat mich vorgewarnt: Die Frage nach der Rolle der Materialitäten in der sozialen Welt kann nicht wichtig genug genommen werden. Sich diesem Thema gewidmet zu haben, ist Verdienst des Autors. Mehr Lob als das ist leider nicht zu finden… Aber ich schätze die Arbeiten von Jürgen Hasse eigentlich, weshalb ich mich hier auch noch ein wenig mit dem Inhalt seiner Kritik auseinandersetzen möchte. Dazu ein beispielhafter Absatz:

Phänomenologie kann nicht ohne saubere Begriffsarbeit gelingen! Das zeigt auch der Gebrauch des am Verständnis der Astronomie (!) orientierten Begriffs der »Konstellation«. Als Konstellationen werden nämlich die untersuchten Fähr- und Bahnhofsräume beschrieben. Der Begriff der Konstellation betont Einzelnes einer messbar-relationalen Ordnung im Gefüge anderer Dinge und menschlicher Körper. Der erkenntnistheoretische Effekt des Konstellations-Begriffs ist die denotative Isolierung. Ein solcher Blick passt nicht zur Methode der Phänomenologie, die Zusammenhängendes verstehen will und darin jedem erkenntnistheoretischen Atomismus entgegentritt. Die Dinge und Menschen ganzheitlich zusammenhaltenden Bedeutungsgefüge wären mit dem Begriff der »Situation« sicher wirkungsvoller zu analysieren gewesen.

Jürgen Hasse hat selbstverständlich völlig Recht, wenn er sagt, dass der Begriff der Konstellation – insbesondere in der Art in der ich ihn verwende – nicht zur Methode der Phänomenologie passt. Situation wäre in der Tat das passendere Konzept. Aber eine der wichtigsten Lehren meines wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens, meiner Auseinandersetzungen mit allerlei Kritischer Theorie, Konstruktivismus, Linguistic Turn und den Post…ismen ist, dass eine theoretische Einseitigkeit nicht nur in vielerlei Hinsicht fragwürdig ist – weil sie immer bestimmte Aspekte ausblendet und weil sie Unstimmigkeiten einfach ignoriert oder als nebensächlich abtut –, sondern weil eine theoretische Einseitigkeit darüber hinaus auch weniger produktiv ist und gerne zu vorhersagbaren Ergebnissen führt.
Selbstverständlich macht es wenig Sinn, Begriffe und Theorien einfach bunt ineinander zu würfeln. Die Einhüllenden Materialitäten waren ein Versuch, die Chancen einer Kombination und Konfrontation unterschiedlicher theoretischer und methodologischer Vorgehensweisen gezielt herauszuarbeiten und unter ständiger Reflexion und Selbstverortung und in Auseinandersetzung mit dem im Feld gesammelten Material zu zeigen, was sich wie kombinieren lässt und wo die Grenzen solcher Kombinationen sind (zu den Grenzen des Konstellationsbegriffs siehe beispielsweise S. 135-136 und die Gegenüberstellung zum Begriff des Gemenges auf S. 259-264).
Ich werde natürlich nicht aufhören, dieses Ziel zu verfolgen und wahrscheinlich werde ich in Zukunft zwei Wege verfolgen: in einigen Publikationen radikal und pointiert Unterschiedliches zusammen zu führen und in anderen Publikationen besonders vorsichtig und abwägend zu argumentieren. Beides hat seine Vorteile und beides wird bei unterschiedlichen Leuten auf Zustimmung und/oder Ablehnung treffen. Es wird natürlich auch weiterhin Leute geben, denen beides nicht passt. (Ich habe den Eindruck gewonnen, dass es hier auch eine Art von generationsbedingt unterschiedlicher Rezeption gibt.) Glücklicherweise bereitet mir sowohl das vorsichtige Argumentieren als auch das Poltern Freude beim Schreiben. Noch glücklicher schätze ich mich allerdings, dass die Rückmeldung, die ich sonst auf mein Buch bekommen habe, so positiv und mich bestärkend war.

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Presentation: Landscape, the body, and the route. The socio-materiality of road stops between erosion and fatigue.

Wed, 25 Mar 2009

Next month Lars Meier and I will go to Cardiff to participate in this year’s conference of the British Sociological Association. I will be presenting as part of the stream Space, Mobility and Place, which sounds like a good context. Following is the abstract:

In this presentation, I want to use digital video recordings and photographs to analyze the corporeal dimension of what is happening in one of mobility’s borderlands. Based on research that has been done at rest stops of the Norwegian Tourist Route, I will discuss the multiple social and material layers that permeate each other at these sites. Symmetrically analysing material aspects on the one hand and social aspects on the other hand (i.e. material: built structures, erosion, and “natural events” like snowfall; i.e. social: social class, fatigue, and “social events” like experiencing a place as a picturesque landscape)–, I want to demonstrate two things: (1) How the corporeal embeddedness of actors in their material surroundings is an inextricable, temporally constituted part of what is labeled as The Social. Thus the challenge to a restricted understanding of the social - as it has been put forward in Science and Technology Studies or in Non-Representational Theory – is taken up in empirical field work. (2) How disruptions in flows are an essential and productive part of everyday practices, even if they arise as irritations. Thus it will be displayed that mobility, speed, and the non-places of flows have another side, a dark side that is, actually, quite multicolored.

I am really looking forward to visit Cardiff for the first time. Maybe even more exciting will be to compare the British sociology crowd with that of the German sociology conferences, and with the British geographers.

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First conference in Oslo: Routes, Roads and Landscapes: Aesthetic Practices en route.

Fri, 06 Mar 2009

Time for some news regarding my new position in Oslo. First: the website of the project is finished and ready for you to browse. I have now changed all the institutional homepage links on my website to the Routes project. I decided to take this step since I do not have a real personal page that I can easily update at the TU Darmstadt anymore.
Second: we (that is the participants of the routes project) have already come up with a conference which will take place in Oslo this fall: on September 24th/25th.
I am really looking forward to this conference, which we have just announced on the routes website. I am quite certain that the conference will be a success – we were very lucky in getting almost all the people we wanted on board for this event. We also have a call for papers, so feel free to submit an abstract.
Other than that, I hope that the routes conference will not overlap with my presentation at the Deutscher Geographentag… bad time scheduling by yours truly…

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