Category: "Places"


09:25:45 pmCategories: Places, Distinctions, Peculiarities

Adieu again

The clouds hang low over Oslo Airport. Typical nice autumn weather, the captain called it. The weather is not necessarily so nice in Paris either, so I’ll not jump to any easy comparison…

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05:23:21 pmCategories: Places, Paris

A descent into eternal Paris?

Rue de Belleville, just above the metro station

What is Paris to me now, I wondered when I sat on the plane on my way south after an absence of more than two years and the experience of a couple of seminal, life-altering (no less) events. I didn’t expect to feel at home. I expected to feel a little anxiety, particularly as I was arriving late in the evening, long after dark, but that didn’t happen. Not at the metro, neither at the metro station where I changed to Line 2, my old favourite, and neither as I walked down my old street. What stuck me instead, was the bizarness of Belleville, as I’d been away for a long time. When I exit the station by the electric stairs in boulevard de la Villette, it’s dark in the street and almost deserted at this stretch of the pavement where, except for two a bit lost men playing a ghetto blaster way over the limits of the loudspeakers, nothing else than a scratching white noise coming out of them. And this morning, a screaming man walked down the street in front of the hotel. I heard his screams from far away, once every twentieth second perhaps, and then they faded away again down in the main street, like a weird human Doppler effect.

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04:31:14 pmCategories: Fieldwork, Places, Politics

Rainy day and interviews

It’s pouring down in Paris, and there is no sign of the heat wave that struck us a year ago. I’m stranded at the local bistro, wishing I had brought my woollen jacket. If the best thing to do when it rains like this is to cuddle up at home with a cup of tea, living alone in a hotel is perhaps one of the least pleasant things. (However, seeing all the people sleeping rough in this city, sometimes right on the pavement outside this bistro, it could have been very much worse. And I’m planning a sizzling hot fish tagine for lunch – if I just could get down to the restaurant – so I’m not complaining).

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12:59:44 pmCategories: Places

Faubourg du Temple, ground floor

Yesterday, moved down four floors and around the corner, to a little hotel in a side street. My coloc also moved out, and I helped him carry down some more or less dilapidated furniture to the pavement. He said he had found it all on the street and that it would disappear immediately when we left it. It was Saturday afternoon when the street is full of people. But he was right. We stood watching in the kitchen window, as the furniture he had collected the last 3 years was carefully scrutinised and then carried away by passer-bys.

Now, I’ve just had breakfast coffee at a bistro at the ground floor from where I lived before, with a croissant and pain aux raisins, bought at my usual bakery. At practically every café, bar or bistro where they don’t serve croissants or where they’ve run out, it’s just to bring your own from the bakery 45 secs away. (Neither leaving stuff on the pavement nor picking stuff from the pavement nor bringing food with you to cafés are the done thing where I come from. Surely, it happens all the time, but you don’t do it so blatantly). Most people having a peek down on the busy street from my window where I lived until yesterday suggested that I just did my fieldwork from the windowsill. (I was thinking that lovemaking and birth are about the only crucial events I haven’t seen, but then I came to remember the flats across the street). Now, when I’ve settled for a couple of hours in the bistro on ground floor, I could say the same thing. While I’ve been sitting here, loads of (male) neighbours and shopkeepers have dropped by for a coffee or drink, discussing holidays, unemployment from Giscard d'Estaing onwards, Sarkozy, the latest terrorist attacks in England (saying “that’s what we need right now, some terrorism…”)… I’ve only been here a handful of times before, once because a slameur I interviewed suggested the place.

It’s one o’clock, Sunday. The grand slam national and first international slam poetry championship finished yesterday. I’ve got nine more days left of fieldwork, a couple of soirées and an interview almost every day (two of the appointments, I made stumbling upon people by chance taking line 2 between Belleville and Stalingrad… East Paris as well as the slam scene, is quite a small world). Ok, enough for today. Time to move on.


06:27:18 pmCategories: Fieldwork, Places, Anthropological notes

Fieldwork fatigue ...and outline from the end to the beginning

“[O]ur work cannot transcend being a human endeavor, with attendant costs as well as benefits” (Wolcott 2005: 141)

Earlier this week, I got ditched on one of my first interview rendezvous. [I later learnt that yes, he had been there, in exactly that huge, rather kitschy Indochinese colonial style bar … My incapacity to find him just proves that I’m suffering from fieldwork fatigue…]. Since it’d been a hard day after another sleepless night, I decided to neither wait longer than 25 minutes, nor phone the person, but instead walk off into the busy street at Place de Pigalle. For once, I was in a place without my bike and with nothing planned. I decided to walk back east, following a boulevard one probably cannot find anything like anywhere else in the world, through Pigalle and Anvèrs (tourists, sexshops, local Americans and ordinary inhabitants), Barbès (French Arab quarter for several generations) and La Chapelle and Stalingrad (crowded, noisy and polluted with traffic, known for its social deprivation and heroin). By quieter and gentrified Canal Saint Martin (where students and artists, tourists and homeless picnic side by side), I know a nice little bar, with three tables outside and a few more on the inside, wooden, brown and sympathetically worn down. They play mostly French music, a little bit punkish, a little bit of Mano Negra, some French Tom Waits, a little bit of Balkan-gipsy style that is so popular here… While I wouldn’t dream of drinking a glass of wine alone in public at Zorba or Les Folies 10 minutes away up in Belleville, I don’t hesitate at Café Jemmapes. After my 40 minutes stroll, I sat down quietly and listen to the chattering around me and watched the people sitting by the canal. I started on this blog post but soon realised that perhaps following an advice from The Art of Fieldwork could help me in my state of fieldwork fatigue:

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Art in the suburbs

Slameur and musicians in a forum culturel in the suburb

Following the Parisian slam scene immediately led me to the suburbs. During my 9 months long first stay here, I crossed la pheripherique (ring road) only five times (except to go to the airport). Three times in the summer I attended open microphone slam events; two in Saint Denis (by Stade de France which one can se on the way to the airport) and one in Fontenay-sous-Bois (to the south east). Saint Denis is well connected to the metro system, Fontenay-sous-Bois is not, and it was a true galère to get there, according to one I travelled with. (One of our adventures dans la galère, I recounted here in Nouvelle France).

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11:10:46 pmCategories: Places

Rue du Faubourg du Temple

I’m not yet tired of Parisian street-life. That’s good, because it’s only four floors separating my bedroom-cum-office from a very noisy, or let’s rather say lively, street indeed.

Rue du Faubourg du Temple, view from my window.

Rue du Faubourg du Temple runs, as I’ve already mentioned, between the significant places Place de la République - where an enormous bronze Marianne La République resides with the three strong marble ladies La Liberté, L’Égalité and La Fraternité – and Belleville. Most demonstrations of whatever size start at Place de la République. When I lived next to the square for a fortnight in December, I stumbled upon a substantial number of police cars right outside my gate every third day or so. One day it was no less than 16 vans from the CRS, another day just 10 or so from La Gendarmerie, and yet another it was the Police Nationale. Only at one of the occasions did I see the demonstrators. The same happened actually a couple of days ago. I had read at Paris.Indymedia that the college students and the sans-papiers would demonstrate against the immigrations policies, so I went over to see what was happening. Maybe I was too late, because at the time I arrived there was very few lycéens to see. On the other hand, the forces of order were heavily represented; the CRS with at least 15 vans, a bus and some other equipment were creating a noisy traffic jam driving south-east down Avenue de la République (direction Père Lachaise and perhaps Place de la Nation). The demonstrations of national importance usually go between Place de la République to Place de la Nation, via Bastille – thus it’s not only the police who can stage a political struggle symbolically (however, with their Robocop uniforms they’re hard to beat when it comes to costumes).

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01:20:03 amCategories: Places

Social geography – Place de la République

Under me, Europe spreads, slightly convexly, out. The cities look like illuminated versions of ancient town maps. It’s such a nice weather to fly in. I don’t feel like doing what I usually do on this 2 hours and 20 minutes flight between Paris and Oslo, (which is to go through the generous little pile of newspapers Air France is providing – Le Monde (centre-left, a bit intellectual), Le Figaro (right), Libération (left, 68-ish) and once in a while L’Humanité (communiste) or the economist paper L’Echo. There are always a number of issues very relevant to my thesis. Instead, I’ll flash around with my chic (loaned) white MacBook and get some writing done.

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