Every time I am reading, I cannot stop comparing other people’s work with mine. But how I do that is paying attention to the way they are knitting their set of concepts. I always find interesting the fluency the rest of the word has for using theoretical notions. The confidence they have for naming things is something I won’t ever have.
Where others have security, I have uncertainties. I am always having doubts about substantives: the act of stabilizing something is a complex task that requires a lot of work. For instance, It has to be a previous activity based on decomposing that element I want to name. That decomposition is a descriptive exercise of following the trajectories of the things that are constituting my main object. A market, for giving an example.
There is a Sunday flea market in Berlin I used to go regularly. The market is a temporal structure made by a park —Mauerpark—, tents, buyers, sellers, food, official permissions, an administrative staff, and a lot of products from many parts of the world.
One day a friend from Turkey came to visit me. We decided to go to the market to spend some time there. Walking around we found a stand of Turkish desserts. My friend was not quite sure about the authenticity of those sweeties, and we decided to buy some baklavas for testing it.
It turns that the flavor and consistency of those pastries evoked to her the baklavas her grandmother used to prepare. She started to talk with the seller about those memories, first in English and then they switched to Turkish. At that moment I got lost. So, I went to the next stand to take a look at its products.
The stand I chose had a lot of military stuff regarding the Soviet era of East Berlin: uniforms, gas masks, helms, patches, and pins. But also it was a big collection of Playmobil figures, one euro each. I bought a blue pin with a Tupolev Tu-154 and a Soviet logo, and a toy that reminds me of one of the Devo members.
There are some possible points for starting with the (de)composition of this flea market. For instance, we can take one of those moments and go further. We can talk about my friend + me + Mauerpark + the flea market + the route we decided to do + the baklavas + the reasons why we stayed in Germany + her memories + we speaking English + Turkish people in Germany.
We could even continue twisting the situation a little bit more. We can include my decision of moving to another stand for starting a new temporal association that involved the URSS, World War II, the division of Berlin, a collector, the Soviet Aviation and propaganda services, a commercial transaction, and the history of Playmobil.
And things can go further and further. We could repeat the same exercise flattering and decomposing any stand, any association, any stabilization and suddenly this Flea market will turn into a galaxy of effervescent assemblages happening at the same time.
Urban life is full of those kinds of situations. In fact, we will not be able to understand life in big agglomerations without the complexity of those particular associations. Nevertheless, this is not a defense of microsociology; choosing either a “micro” or a “macro” level is a methodological mistake. The approach I am proposing here is more like a sort of associology of the urban, a continuous decomposition and elongation of all the associations happening outside.
Moreover, this proposal is still under construction. There are some questions I need to work on: How can we label those momentary and simultaneous assemblages? What kind of concepts should we use for talking about this effervescent daily life? How methodologically should we deal with an unstable subject as the urban?