Month: August 2013

Palais de l’Élysée and Ambiguity of Affect ( emotional geographies 8)

With Syria in the news and an international response taking shape, one cannot be blamed for forgetting about France. How relevant is France in a world where the US is still very much the dominant military superpower? Yet, France has had a much greater global status in the past than it enjoys right now. Palais de l’Élysées represents this twin pronged status of France, in my view: It is both where current French political power culminates, the office of the President of the Republic, a figure whose standing in the world is very far from past grandeur….and it is also a place that represents a rich past: Charles de Gaulle and the others that have basked in the shadows of the towering historical figures of this great country. I find the palais de l’Élysée evokes mixed feelings in light of it being a reminder of how fleeting ‘glory’ is… Yet, I am thankful to be in a city where a glorious past sits with seeming decline. It is a constant reminder to not take things …

Interstitial Affective Zones: Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou (emotive geographies 7)

In between-ness, conflicting emotions, divided points of view, also form an important part of our experience of place. The emotions that spaces around us produce are at times not as clearcut as positive and negative – and this has certainly been the case for this blogger in navigating and trying to discover London and Paris.   While both cities offer so many different opportunities for motivation, delight, inspiration,  and other positive emotions, they also present emotive states that are ‘in-between’ – ‘interstitial’ if one wants to get silly and academic about it; ‘Interstitial’, to me speaks to those spaces that are not easy to define because they are pauses, they are in-between, neither here  nor there.  It is the space between a thought and the point when a word is uttered from one’s lips – pregnant with meaning, yet void at the same time. Hard to define, and best left alone without judgement. Perhaps I ramble too much. And as such, none of what I am saying here makes sense – but it seems to …

Drive and Desire: London (emotive geographies 6)

If Paris is a pleasure inducing sight in the early hours of the morning, London (for me)  is less overpowering but rather more enticing. The phrase ‘London is calling’ captures the feeling of seeing London take shape and come to life in the early hours of the morning: I often take a morning run or walk along the Thames in the early hours of the morning, through Westminster toward Whitehall and across one of the bridges and back toward London eye toward London Bridge/Southwark Cathedral where I usually set up camp in London.  What the unfolding cityscape evokes for me is a sense of desire – in the sense of wanting, hoping for, being motivated, and to some degree being driven, too.  While the excesses associated with these districts of London are questionable – i.e.the excesses of capitalist expansion, greed, self-interest, elitist politics etc… –  there is a potentially positive way to interpret and ‘feel’ London’s cityscape. I find it as a space that communicates the passion, drive, desire and motivation of the many people …

Before the raising of the curtain: early morning Paris (emotive geographies 5)

On this morning’s early morning jog, it struck me that the meanings and emotions that we attach to places are also a function of time: At the most basic, this would mean at what time of the day we find ourselves in particular spaces (this could be expanded to include considerations about season, year, epoch, etc…) This ‘temporal-spatial’ dynamic reveals a lot about the places we choose to live, about ourselves, what we value, and so forth. I understood more clearly, for example, as I made my way through empty streets, that the affection, thoughts, and judgements that I associate with Paris and London are usually determined in relative terms. I form views of these cities as someone in a network of relations and relationships…as a foreign student relative to local populations, a customer relative to service providers, an anonymous body in crowds of strangers. Now, when the spaces are emptied of the people that help me shape meaning and develop feelings for place ( in thus case because they are all asleep) what meaning …

‘Emotive geography’ (4): Musée Jean Jacques Henner, Paris

Trying to map out Paris and London on the basis of the feelings that certain spaces evoke gives an entirely new way of relating to each of these two cities. And perhaps it even transforms one’s broader view of what enhances the human experience – Paris and London are becoming active agents in facilitating my sense of wellbeing, my ability to function well and succeed at what I am doing. And being able to have a personal ‘map’ of the two cities based on the various emotional states that various urban spaces create, it becomes easier to appropriate spaces, give meaning to them, and engage with the cities on terms beyond their practical function. They no longer simply represent places to get ahead but places that have a stake in my growth and transformation on several levels – beyond merely that of getting an education. My place of study, and my graduate work becomes only one dimension of the experience and purpose of being in these places. The museum of artist Jean Jacques Henner in …

Emotive geography (3): Rue Notre Dame des Champs

A life spent with friends, and family, and familiar faces often unfolds for this blogger on Rue Notre dame des Champs. The sound of the name evokes particualr feelings of belonging, acceptance, being welcomed, warmth. A simple look at the street would not suggest this, necessarily. particularly on  the more moody nights when it is rainy/ gloomy. Yet even on those days, waking down Notre dame des Champs is always promising – there is the hops of buzzing into a giant dooor, taking the lift, being welcomed with an embrace, great  home cooked food and  friendliness. This part of Paris’s geography for me is associated with feelings of belonging. That’s an important aspect of any personal ‘affective map’ that I could make of Paris – I am not sure there is any part of London that I have the same feeling for! *** Now, as part of a 2013 project to collect 365 reasons to be grateful for the experience of studying and living in Paris and London, I’ll have to add that I am …

Emotive Geography (2): Westminster, Whitehall London

A walk around Westminster during term time means coming across various protests – many of them longterm ones. It’s always interesting to stop, and get a sense of the broad range of political and social causes that attract  varying sized crowds – from one woman protests that have been going on for years over Tibet, to a dozen fold protest on LGBT rights that perpetually revises its reasons to be present – to  scores of protestors on current international and national issues.  Protest has the capacity to evoke a range of emotional responses – barring apathy and complete indifference.  There is a spectrum of feelings that one could associate with protest –  on one hand irritation and annoyance and on the other end, affinity and solidarity. I tend to find myself somewhere toward the latter end of the spectrum – a dose of irritation on some days,  but the presence of protest and political activism is generally invigorating. Whitehall, Westminster are place names that elicit feelings of being energized – politicised, being drawn toward being …