an exploration of urban identity in the middle of Texas
Morning assembly at my daughter’s elementary school was once a ditty of tattooed legs and necklines, skateboards, scooters, tousled hair, everyone holding hands as bodies converged on the cafeteria from a radius of streets and walking paths. “How’s it going? … Is that a cast on Max’s leg?…. did you get that notice?… are you going to Spring Fling? Oh, is that this week? Shit.” The scene in the cafeteria was fifteen minutes of standing still in a synaesthetic zone as the class of the week assembled on the stage for pledges, birthday greetings, the school song. Assembly was a refrain etched into the day, accumulated as a sensory rhythm and habit. Then it was over, popped like a balloon by a new principal fumbling for control. The kids fell off an orienting track; the parents mourned – “what about us?” Assembly, reduced to something flat once a week, quickly became a chore no one showed up for.
Katie Stewart writes and teaches on affect, the ordinary, the senses, and modes of ethnographic engagement based on curiosity and attachment. Her first book, A Space on the Side of the Road: Cultural Poetics in an ‘Other’ America (Princeton University Press, 1996) portrays a dense and textured layering of sense and form laid down in social use. Ordinary Affects (Duke University Press, 2007) maps the force, or affects, of encounters, desires, bodily states, dream worlds, and modes of attention and distraction in the composition and suffering of present moments lived as immanent events. Her current project, Atmospheric Attunements, tries to approach ways of collective living through or sensing out. An attunement that is also a worlding. These works are experiments that write from the intensities in things, asking what potential modes of knowing, relating or attending to things are already being enacted and imagined in ordinary ways of living.