Outside the main railway station in Bucharest, Romania, otherwise unemployed
day laborers hustle for small change as informal parking lot attendants
(parcagii). While their efforts yield numerous ethnographic observations of entrepreneurial
activity, these attendants report “doing nothing” day in and day out.
This article explores the tension between etic observations and emic feelings in order
to ask a methodological question: how can “not doing” and “absent activity” be
captured within an ethnographic method primed to observe activity constantly? In
response, this article takes inspiration from photography to develop “the negative”
as a technique for bringing the impress of absent activity on social worlds into
ethnographic view. The intent of this methodological intervention is to open new
theoretical lines of flight into the politics of inactivity.