Postcolonialism, 2Pac, and the borders in our head

I had an interesting conversation last night with my former teacher in Iranian studies. We were sitting at the bank of the river Main, listening to 2pac and talking about colonialism in history and politics in the Middle West (aka Europe).

In that context, he led me read his newest article. It wasn’t edited or refined in any way but as soon as it is published, I see there is potential to write a review of that article here.

And just so you don’t set your expectations too high:
2Pac wasn’t mentioned there.

“Academia vs The Public?” – Part 2 of X

An amazing essay I just finished reading tackling the issue at hand in great detail. I’ll just leave it here and let it speak for itself. My next post might be a review, adding my own experience and take on it.

I actually like this series kind of thing I am doing here. Excited for the next part myself.

“Academia vs the public”? – Part 1 of X

In our hours-long discussions, my friend Alex and I often bring up the importance of the relationship between academia and the public and how bad it is. The discussions get somehow heated because there is no one to blame it on really. Is it “the mob” who are ignorant, unwilling to listen and learn something meaningful? Or is it the scientists in the notorious “ivory tower” who are not able to communicate their knowledge and make their work accessible – or meaningful at all? As soon as we determine one factor, we see immediately that it is more complicated than that and more often than not we argue against our own statement. (We are just two dudes high on maté, but we are good at steelmanning). It’s an Hen Egg Problem, I guess. I will keep you up to date on this one.

Coffee and incense

“It was like Serbia”, I told my friend. And it was. I talked about how things went slower than what I am used to in western Europe and how open and welcoming the people were. It was indeed very similar to what I experienced on the Balkans, “plus the scent of coffee and incense in the air”. I said it with a smile but there was truth to it. The smell of buna and etan, coffee and incense, is something that brings back memories of my fieldwork in Hawassa, Ethiopia. I noticed that smell and sound is a factor that in a way defines the cityscape even more than architecture and urban planning. I was there to do research on religion and ethnicity. But on the back of my notebook, I listed some overall impressions of the city and its atmosphere.

Smells and long term memory are closely related, yet when we talk about our experience in a foreign country or city, we rarely mention smells. Maybe it is so present that we don’t pay attention to it anymore. Or we simply forgot how to talk about smell. When we talk about scent, our vocabulary seems not to be suited for describing it accurately. Our vocabulary is shaped by the topics we talk about and – at least English and German language – still need to develop that aspect when it comes to describing smells effectively.

There is a niche for that though. Marketing and anthropology already work together in that field. But research on senses are conducted mainly on visuals (“bias against sight”, Arantes 2014: 27) and – looking at the perfume industry – mostly concerned with creating positive smells or avoiding bad ones instead of understanding the nature of smell in itself (Moeran 2017).

Maybe I will one day put together these fieldnotes, enriched with some ethnographic inputs i got from people better versed in urban anthropology than I am. Maybe this will be of some use and lead to some kind of conclusion.

One day…



    • Arantes, Lydia Maria (2014): “Kulturanthropologie und Wahrnehmung. Zur Sinnlichkeit in Feld und Forschung”. In: Arantes, Lydia Maria and Elisa Rieger (eds.): Ethnographien der Sinne. Wahrnehmung und Methode in empirisch-kulturwissenschaftlichen Forschungen. Bielefeld: Transcript, 23-38.
    • El Helou, Maria A. (2018):  Urban smellscape. The pheromones of a city and the sense of place. (
    • Moeran, Brian (2007): Marketing scents and the anthropology of smell. Social Anthropology 15 (2): 153-168.
    • Quercia, Daniele (2016): The emotional and chromatic layers of urban smell. (
    • Quercia, Daniele, Rossano Schifanella, Luca Maria Aiello, and Kate McLean  (2015): Smelly maps. The digital life of urban smellscapes.  (