Benjamin Geer on Fri, 24 Aug 2007 16:18:28 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> personal life, impersonal writing

On 23/08/07, Kimberly De Vries <> wrote:
> And frankly, I think nettime's identity has been based on a false premise
> that this kind of talk isn't an integral and essential part of intellectual
> work.

I agree.

> During the early days of the list when it seems people met more in
> person, perhaps it worked to exclude personal exchanges from the list itself
> because many participants already knew each other in person and saw each
> other often enough to maintain the connections without using the list.  I
> don't think that's true anymore.

One of the main motivations for the Open Organizations project[1] I
was involved in a few years ago was the realisation that the activist
groups we had dealt with all seemed to be based on friendship networks
that tended to exclude outsiders from decision-making, exactly as
described in Jo Freeman's essay "The Tyranny of Structurelessness"[2].
(Ironically, this applied to the Open Organizations project as well.)
We saw this as undemocratic, and one of our main aims was to propose
ways to open more avenues for participation that weren't based on
personal affinities. However, this doesn't mean censoring personal
life and personal relationships or pretending they don't exist,
because if you do that, you just drive them underground, where they
continue to operate unaccountably but just as powerfully. I think
Keith is right to say that we need to rethink the relationship between
the personal and the impersonal, and how can we do that without
talking about our own experiences?

> And I think this discussion should be continued out onlist.

Yes, moderators, please give this one a chance.

> You opened my eyes regarding why people go to those dreadful conferences.

I'll come out and admit that back when I was single, I went to an
academic conference specifically to look for a sexual partner. (And it
worked!) OK, it was a conference on a subject I really was interested
in and familiar with, but I wouldn't have gone just out of interest in
the subject.

I've spent a lot of my life studying languages, and noticed that
language study has a strong tendency to affect one's love life. I'm
from the US, studied French, and ended up marrying a French woman.
I know quite a few Europeans who studied Arabic in Egypt and found
themselves Egyptian boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses. Sometimes the
relationship goes badly and the student returns to Europe and abandons
Arabic altogether. Other times, the relationship goes well, the
student interrupts their studies, gets a job in Egypt (e.g. teaching
English) and settles down, content to say "I mean to finish that MA

In other cases, you find intercultural couples whose relationship
parallels their shared field of work. For example, Richard Jacquemond,
a French professor of Arabic literature, is married to Samia Mehrez,
an Egyptian professor of Arabic literature. The English translations
of Russian novels done by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
also come to mind. Of course, you have to dig to find out that these
are couples. More generally, I have the impression (but it's just
an impression) that there are a lot of academic couples who work on
the same subjects. My wife and I are an example: I got interested in
studying Egyptian writers because that's what she was doing.

I know there's a lot of social science literature on "matrimonial
markets" in general, and I think some of it has dealt with academia
specifically; anyone know details?



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