Category: "Writing"


Parisian performance poetry: a republican space for encounters?

Another presentation which I blatantly will fail to give (see this post), were to take place at a conference in Oxford in about one week’s time, Encounters and Intersections: Religion, Diaspora and Ethnicities.

The problematics of this paper give me the opportunity to look at two other aspect of the space created during a slam session: the particular quality of the encounters taking place. While only a very few of the participants talked explicitly about the political and subversive character of the slam phenomenon (see previous post), many more will describe it as a quite unique place for encounters. This is thus more of a native’s point of view than what is treated in the previous post. The ways many people describe the soirées echoes in my opinion important values of the French Republic. This is the next aspect I’ll introduce in the analysis of the space created during a session. In the previous post, I looked in the direction of connections between the local socio-political environment of the city and the soirées, in this it’s the connections between the soirées and the Republic herself I postulate. These problematics will go into chapter 2 and Chapter 5 (see the outline at the end of this post). Here’s my abstract for the conference:

Parisian performance poetry: a republican space for encounters?
Cicilie Fagerlid

In this paper, I will explore the space for encounters created during Parisian slam poetry sessions. Many participants characterise this performance poetry scene as a medium for rencontres (encounters) of people of different backgrounds. The sessions are among the most mixed events one can find in France, in terms of social and ethnic background as well as age and gender. It can thus be seen as an arch expression of the French republican ideal of mixité sociale and the value of vivre ensemble (“living together” – a term with similarities to the British notion of “community cohesion”).
The performances treat a vide variety of issues, expressed with a variety of different artistic styles, from rap to French traditional poetry via experimental theatre. However, seen from a British multiculturally inspired paradigm, the issues of collective religious or ethnic identities are conspicuously absent.
I will place the poetry sessions within the socio-political geography of East Paris (a popular, bohemian and increasingly gentrified area shaped by immigration) and the French republican paradigm of social integration. The paper is based on 16 months of fieldwork in East Paris. In addition, I will draw on my previous research project on British Asians in London.

Contact details:
Cicilie Fagerlid
Department of Social Anthropology/Cultural Complexity in the New Norway
Postboks 1091 Blindern
N-0317 Oslo

Cicilie Fagerlid is working on her PhD thesis with the preliminary title Society in the Making: Post Colonial Paris and the Slam Poetry Scene. She is employed at the Department of Social Anthropology and Cultural Complexity in the New Norway, strategic research programme, both at the University of Oslo.


01:29:34 pmCategories: Spaces, Anthropological notes, Writing

The socio-political geography of East Paris: Parisian slam poetry – a space of resistance?

The most recent paper I failed to give (see previous post) was looking at the slam poetry phenomenon from the perspective of where it is situated, – socio-politically as well as geographically. I wanted to explore the connection between the slam scene’s geographical position in the North and East (and to some extent the 13th Arrondissement in the South) and the socio-political characteristics of these parts of the city. Here’s the abstract for the presentation:

Parisian slam poetry – a space of resistance?
Cicilie Fagerlid, PhD fellow at Cultural Complexity in the New Norway (strategic research programme at the University of Oslo)

In this paper, I will explore the relationship between the Parisian slam (performance) poetry scene and the socio-political landscape of North and East Paris, where the scene is situated. This part of the city is historically popular and left-wing with an important influence of bohemians and artists, and an equally long history of regional and international immigration.

I will argue that what is created during an evening of poetry performances, is to some extent a space of biopolitical resistance. Similar forms of resistance to standardisations of everyday life and/or governmental politics overflow the urban space of the northern and eastern Parisian neighbourhoods – in terms of streetart, political and artistic posters and stickers, low-cost and “alternative” film and music festivals, readings and talks in bookshops and cultural centers, a plethora of demonstrations filling the streets with colours and noise and a general, unruly everyday streetlife. I will situate the slam poetry within this landscape and discuss to what extent Antonio Negri’s notion of a (bio)space “in-between” power relations can be a helpful analytical perspective:

“Where is exodus at home? Where is the space for those who want to go into exodus from power and its domination?” For me, exodus sometimes requires force. And this is, paradoxically, an exodus that does not seek an “outside” of power, but which affirms the refusal of power, freedom in the face of power, in the hollow of its meshes (Negri, Petcou, Petrescu and Querrien 2008).

Negri,Toni, Constantin Petcou, Doina Petrescu and Anne Querrien 2008: “What makes a biopolitical space? A discussion with Toni Negri” in Eurozine at (accessed 02.05.2008)

I’ve decided to continue working on the problematics of this paper during the summer, making it into the two first chapters of my thesis (see the end of this post for a preliminary outline). In the first chapter, I will describe and analyse some of the areas where the slam soirées take place (how I’m looking forward to wander the streets of Belleville and Ménilmontant in my imagination again!). In Chapter 2, I will ask how we can understand the particular space created during a slam – thus grasping the micro-dynamics of a soirée – and secondly, making a connection to chapter 1, I will look at what might be the relations between the slam phenomenon and the particular environment of the city where it is situated.

For some reason, the summer Oslo mood certainly inspires a delve back into my memory of Parisians streets and cafés…


08:24:16 pmCategories: Writing


But what has happened to my blog?! It’s a long time since my webmaster warned me that it had been given a brown mark by some RSS newsreader for its lack of updating, and people as far as Cotounu in Benin and Saint Denis in France are wondering what’s going on… The problem boils down to the unfortunate fact that not even my thesis is being updated at the moment. But as the summer calm comes to the university, and I’m starting to feel better after a couple of hard months, it seems like things will get back on track.

In march I wrote several abstracts that got accepted to various conferences and workshops (Parisian performance poetry: a republican space for encounters? – The concept of minority and inclusion in national memory in France and Britain – Citizenship and citoyenneté: A comparison between postcolonial Britain and France – Identity and belonging in postcolonial Paris: the slam poetry scene – Parisian slam poetry: A space of resistance? – “Scar academy”: The French performance poetry scene) but alas, I won’t be doing any of the presentations, as things have gone a bit astray lately. Instead of being bent over my thesis uninterruptedly the last six months, je me suis mariée (à Rome!) in January, conceived a child in February, tried to get a house in Corsica in March and sold and bought a flat in Oslo in May and June. And all that is also part of life. In July I’ll get a hell of a lot of writing done.


02:30:09 pmCategories: Anthropological notes, Writing

"Start in the middle"

Last week the amount of empirical data and loose ends unsettled me in my intentions to get on writing. I asked everybody I met if they could recommend me a technique to sort the data and how and where to start writing. The second best advice I got was to start listening through the interviews and jot down central themes and get inspired from that. It’s a good idea and I think the conversations and individuals were my point of departure for my Master thesis. But this time I doubt that the interviews are anywhere near my peak performance as a fieldworker. First, they were conducted in French. Second, and most importantly; my slammer acquaintances aka interviewees knew I’d not be able to anonymize them donc what they told me are mostly bland and well-groomed versions closer to what anyone can find on the internet than what one can see and hear on and around a slam session. On the other hand, the interviews certainly give me background information providing context for the individuals and their relationship to the slam… or whatever… I don’t know yet. I just know I felt ok about them but nothing more. They weren’t eye-opening enlightenments like most of the interviews I did in London.

“Start right in the middle, with the core of the issue,” a friend casually remarked during a conversation mostly about other things when I met her last week. Yes, of course, that’s obvious, I suddenly realised. I had started in the other end, in the margins, trying to track my own route of discovery from the beginning of my stay in Paris. I thought it would be an interesting journey to re-travel: Where and when and how did I come across certain topics and reach particular understandings? I realise now that first I have to determine for sure which are the important topics and understandings that need to be pinpointed – thus I have to start from the core…

And the core is… the soirées of course! I’ll go through them one by one, focusing on the different venues and events, starting with the four soirées I attended and filmed at L’Atelier du Plateau (already mentioned in this post). I don’t know yet what exactly will come out of this, but I’ll for sure get an overview of the variety of persons attending and the themes they approach. What a relief to find a way out of the empirical maze!


14:09:44Categories: Writing

Authoring a PhD continued

In Authoring a PhD: How to plan, draft, write and finish a doctoral thesis or dissertation by Patrick Dunleavy, I’ve found numerous advice on how to structure my work more efficiently. I’ll try to sum some of them up here and give a brief account of how I’m making use of them.

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02:02:37 pmCategories: Fieldwork, Anthropological notes, Writing, Blogging

My blog, my project and I, part 1

The name of my blog is a sort of homage to the field diary that inspired me to start blogging: Jon Henrik among the Ifugaos. Lorenz, my Webmaster and the editor of, asked me ages ago to write a few words on why I decided to write a blog from my fieldwork. In fact, the answer isn’t as well-considered as Lorenz, a dedicated net publicist, might have thought. I just thought that what Jon Henrik had done was such a cool thing to do: It was nice to see what he was doing among the Ifuagos. However, after I started I have noticed that blogging sharpens the attention, just like taking a lot of photos (and probably painting) does; One starts to see motifs everywhere, and then one has to reflect on how to make the motif into a story so other people can understand what you want to tell them.

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