“It was only during the springtime seasonal harvest of white asparagus (Spargel) that the connection became more apparent between regional, eastern, and national German identities.”
In my work on the growing popularity of social and mobile media among urban, middle class Europeans in Berlin (Penn Press, forthcoming), it might seem ironic that page 99 of the dissertation treats not media or digital technology or even transnational connection, but Spargelzeit, the springtime season of white asparagus, beloved by many in Germany and northern Europe. The chapter connects (or attempts to connect) weekly shared Spargel meals among a circle of friends from eastern Germany living in Berlin to ways of being and feeling German affectively, and links affective forms of selfhood to the territorial scale of the nation. National affect, in this sense, rather than discursive identification, offers insight into a surprising finding about media practices, that some young Germans and other Europeans oriented toward transnational connections on social media read national newspapers as part of their daily online routine, after checking email and Facebook.
Yet from another angle, page 99 encapsulates the central themes wending through the manuscript, reconsidering media and place in terms of scalemaking, that is, how the local, national, or global are constructed as geographic levels through media practice. Through this approach, I argue that national selfhood is better understood not as a shift in geographic scope, from regional or provincial identities to national (or post-national) ones, but in the nature of selfhood itself, in which subjectivity became linked to the territorial order of the nation-state:
“In Berlin, eating Spargel together linked regional Saxony-Anhalt and eastern German identities to ways of being and feeling German with consequences for how belonging at the national scale was experienced and understood, online and offline.”
This fractal-like embedding of the broader analytic in a single page (while perhaps typical of a book-length project) calls to mind Joe Dumit’s “Implosion Project” exercise (Dumit 2014). Take any object, or idea or topic, and unpack all the dense connections, histories, and associations that you know about it (and don’t know), and you find, to paraphrase, how the world is in it and it’s in the world. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that an ethnographic moment seemingly unrelated to my broader questions is in fact closely entwined with them.
Joseph Dumit. 2014. “Writing the Implosion: Teaching the World One Thing at a Time.” Cultural Anthropology 29(2): 344–362. http://dx.doi.org/10.14506/ca29.2.09
Jordan Kraemer. 2012. “Mobile Berlin: Social Media and the New Europe.” PhD dissertation, University of California, Irvine.
Jordan Kraemer, PhD, is a media anthropologist who writes about emerging media, transnationalism, design, mobility, and precarity. She is currently completing a book on social and mobile media, urban space, and cosmopolitanism in Berlin. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Irvine, and is teaching STS at NYU Tandon and consulting with Implosion Labs, LLC in Brooklyn. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.