Posts Tagged ‘Queen’s Gardens’

London, 20 ↻ 30 September


LeafyKensington crossTwinsDistanceBushyKing's CrossKing's Cross
9/24: I joined Emma Wilson of IIED, for dinner, arranging  to meet under the concourse board at newly remodeled King’s Cross station, across the street from St. Pancreas, straight shot on the Circle Line from Paddington station, several steps near where I am staying at Queen’s Gardens, nearby the Kensington High Street.

IIED stands for International Institute for Environment and Development, which provides services for sustainability programs in developing countries. I have had the pleasure of visiting the offices of IIED last year for several days and was impressed with the maturity of practices in place for creating reliable reporting on development programs currently under way.

For dinner, Emma ordered chicken pot pie and I drowned my fish and chips in malt vinegar. I explained that my recent interest has been in how professionals frame what I call the “sweet spot of modernity” — through an alchemy of social authorities, intellectual technologies, and practical activities, specific professionals strive to “get things just right” in their assessments of the modern condition.  And this feature became the center of our discussion, Emma explaining, as with any organization, professional members lurch forward (a potato sack race was our analogy), collectively, managing a combination of personal trajectories into a common whole, not unlike a political campaign, but for obvious reasons, somewhat different since the focus is not solely the candidate, but the collective.

Not wanting to go into too much detail about IIED here, but using my conversation with Emma as a data point, the emphasis placed by individuals in these organizations on recursivity, that is, self assessment as an indication of assessing the overall goals, and in combination, developing mature individual projects that co-correspond to the organization while maintaining the arch of trajectory of the personal life of the professional — indeed, strikes me as both ambitious and routine.

If this is indeed the case, and perhaps it is one valuation, then the question remains, arising at the end our discussion, what is cutting edge? What is the edge alongside an anthropologist could trace the boundary upon which professional organizations teeter between collapse and innovation?

concourse board


9/23 at The Caesar in Queen’s Gardens (between Paddington and Kensington Gardens): Walking through to the high street for coffee, seeing the beginning of everyone’s Monday morning, children dressed in pea coats on their way to school, tourists gathering over maps in cafes, businessmen on bicycles, hotel staff leaving after the night shift, and the laden greenness of leaves on the various oaks, beeches, silver birches, chestnuts.

heathrowSome months ago, I saw the film Spring Breakers, where a group of university girls, in justification for breaking bad, detail the boredom of life, waking up in the same beds, seeing the same lamp posts, same buildings in the neighborhood.

Mentioning the scene several days later, with Florian Stammler on the Tromsø docks, I could not help reflecting on the immense travel and expanse of open-ended unstructured time available to cultural anthropologists as a profession.

There is no other profession I can think of in which one can explore continuously and remain identifiable as a specific intellectual (in Michel Foucault‘s sense of the term, that is, a modern professional).

heathrow at a distanceThe possibility of seeing new things anew all the time, to wake up in a new neighborhood continuously as an indication of the professional — that is what lends the discipline a modern attitude, for among nearly all professionals, the routine is what characterizes their pattern.

9/21: Blew into town just in time to catch my breath and a few winks.

I left Houston with an incoming note from, Jostein Mykletun, US Consular General of Norway, who invited me back next month to attend Houston’s off-shore conference, with promising key notes including Oslo Energy Forum’s Managing Director and former Shell boss, Johan Nic Vold. I would rather not pass up the opportunity to meet with those two heavies in one room, so we will see you next month again in Houston. Meanwhile, here in London…

…Arrival scene.


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