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Too much time

Changing conceptions of boredom, progress, and the future among young men in urban Ethiopia, 2003–2015

Daniel Mains

In the context of unprecedented rates of urban unemployment, in the early 2000s young men in Ethiopia struggled with an overabundance of time. I examine changes in urban young men’s experiences of time and progress over a period of 13 years to better understand the nature of boredom and modernity. Young men simultaneously experienced a sense a linear progress in their own lives, and feelings of frustration when shift s in their built environment did not translate into a more abstract sense of change. Ultimately I argue that in contrast to conceptions of boredom that emerge out of the West, Ethiopian boredom was profoundly social in the sense that it was based on an inability to experience progress in one’s relations of reciprocity with others.

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Emre Çaglayan

This article examines the relationship between boredom and cinema, particularly by attending to the ways in which it has been used as an aesthetic strategy in contemporary slow films. These films use long takes and dedramatization to create dead time, where narrative causality and progress are abandoned to facilitate contemplative viewing. The article argues that this mode of spectatorship exhibits close affinities to underlying features of boredom, and that filmmakers mute dramatic intensity and foreground idleness and ambiguity for a more aesthetically rewarding cinematic experience. The article explores this question through examining different types of boredom and dedramatization, before concluding with an extended analysis of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011).

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Boredom, Rhythm, and the Temporality of Ritual

Recurring Fieldwork in the Brazilian Candomblé

Inger Sjørslev

Setting out from fieldwork experiences in the ritual of the Brazilian Candomblé, this article aims to understand temporality in different ways. The significance of 'unfocused presence' in the field is discussed by way of the concept of 'deep hanging out'. The boredom experienced by the fieldworker is analyzed in relation to sentiments expressed by the people involved in ritual and the fieldworker's changing emotions over time, as previous experiences influence how time spent waiting is perceived. In ritual as well as in the interaction between fieldworker and the people in the field, temporality is deeply related to sociality and the aesthetics of social rhythm. It is concluded that the fieldworker is drawn into the time-geography of the field in a joint chore ography of social interaction.

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The ethnographic negative

Capturing the impress of boredom and inactivity

Bruce O'Neill

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.

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Introduction

Rethinking the class politics of boredom

Marguerite van den Berg and Bruce O’Neill

Nearly a decade after the global financial crisis of 2008, this thematic section investigates one way in which marginalization and precarization appears: boredom. An increasingly competitive global economy has fundamentally changed the coordinates of work and class in ways that have led to a changing engagement with boredom. Long thought of as an affliction of prosperity, boredom has recently emerged as an ethnographically observed plight of the most economically vulnerable. Drawing on fieldwork from postsocialist Europe and postcolonial Africa, this thematic section explores the intersection of boredom and precarity in order to gain new insight into the workings of advanced capitalism. It experiments with ways of theorizing the changing relationship between status, production, consumption, and the experience of excess free time. These efforts are rooted in a desire to make sense of the precarious forms of living that proliferated in the aftermath of the global financial crisis and that continue to endure a decade later.

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Joyful pessimism

Marginality, disengagement, and the doing of nothing

Martin Demant Frederiksen

Studies of marginality have examined how individuals or groups are distanced from a hoped-for life as a result of structural, economic, or political circumstances, and how this may result in unwanted experiences of boredom. Th is article critically reexamines this perspective by juxtaposing it with an empirical description of a group of young Georgian nihilists who live in a sphere of disengaged repetition where turning the future into something that “doesn’t matter anyway” becomes a way of handling boredom in the present in an inactive manner. I use this to examine the temporal aspects at stake among marginal groups who deliberately disengage. In the article, I deploy the term “joyful pessimism” as an analytical device to capture an alternative configuration of marginality and boredom.

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Robert R. Clewis

How should a film's appearing dated affect critical evaluation of it? This article distinguishes enjoyment of a film from evaluation and describes how films undergo positive, negative, and comic dating. The affective responses of nostalgia, boredom, and humorous amusement, respectively, are associated with each of these kinds of dating. Insofar as these affective responses are unintended and thus beyond the control of the filmmakers, they have little influence on the film's artistic value, which is understood in terms of the filmmakers' achievement. Conversely, these states do affect levels of enjoyment. By recognizing this, evaluators can rationally resolve disagreements that are grounded on these unintended affective responses to dated films. Several films and film reviews are examined, yet no attempt is made to give close readings or analyses of the films discussed.

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Nowhere to Go, Nothing to Do

Place, Desire, and Country Girlhood

Catherine Driscoll

This article explores the figure of the bored country girl that appears widely in popular culture but also in girls studies and rural studies through ethnographic research in Australian country towns. While the presumption that country girls lack resources and opportunities for entertainment and leisure is in many ways empirically valid, this problem's articulation in girls' lives also offers an important perspective from which to ask what boredom and cultural needs mean, relative to each other, for both rural studies and girls studies. This article suggests that girlhood's relation to policy discourse and urbanized modernity can be productively reconsidered through the lived experience of country girls.

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Bruce O'Neill, Helene Maria Kyed, Pauline Peters, Ruy Llera Blanes and Hege Toje

Martin Demant Frederiksen, Young Men, Time, and Boredom in the Republic of Georgia (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2013), 214 pp. ISBN 9781439909188.

Didier Fassin, Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013), 320 pp. ISBN 9780745664798.

Ørnulf Gulbrandsen, The State and the Social: State Formation in Botswana and Its Pre-colonial and Colonial Genealogies (New York: Berghahn Books, 2014), 343 pp. ISBN 9781782383253.

Franco La Cecla and Piero Zanini, The Culture of Ethics, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2013), 119 pp. ISBN 9780984201044.

Madeleine Reeves, Border Work: Spatial Lives of the State in Rural Central Asia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014), 292 pp. ISBN 9780801477065.

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Comics and Everyday Life

From Ennui to Contemplation

Greice Schneider

This paper discusses the recent growing presence of the everyday in comics from different traditions, works where ordinary situations and apparently insignificant events take the place of extraordinary worlds and adventure stories. Drawing predominantly from the French perspective of Everyday Studies (Lefebvre, Blanchot, Perec, De Certeau), the ambiguous dynamics of the everyday will be here studied in relation to the contrasting concepts of boredom and strangeness. This paper addresses not only comics that bring these two attitudes as a theme, but also those which manage to awaken emotional responses in the reader, specifically ennui and contemplation. The aim here is to identify different strategies proper to the language of comics capable of arousing everyday moods in the reading experience, particularly in those cases where the temporal dimension is manipulated, reinforcing a sense of slowness.