Waiting for Intimate Bureaucracies at Red Emma’s at St. Paul & Madison

Tonight’s ride took me racing down St. Paul to meet J. at the bookstore to hear C. talk about his newest work. I’d had a long day helping incoming students learn to navigate some of the many levels of bureaucracy at their new institution, so a talk on “Intimate Bureaucracies” was a perfect cap to the day. I snapped this picture as I waited, not sure what to expect. I work with C. and I feel like I know him from his many incarnations on the internet, but I didn’t really have any idea what he thought about. It was a great talk, and I talked a lot too, during the time when it’s appropriate to also talk, but I worry a little that I talked too much, but anyway, I’m not sure if I understand what he wanted me to understand, but what I got was something like this: we usually think of bureaucracy as something cold and mean, something to fight against. I know I thought of it that way today as I made multiple trips to multiple bureaucrats who sent me to other bureaucrats who I needed to give me a code to give to a student so he could register for something he wasn’t interested in but needed to take in order to graduate sometime in the future, and then that last-level bureaucrat was at a meeting, so the whole thing was postponed (and yes, that’s one of the chains that happened today–I’m not making it up). But C. pointed out that the rules are also enabling, like any boundary, and they make possible spaces of play or resistance or something else, some sort of intimacy, and what would it look like to scale up intimacy we have in  our smaller networks to these larger bureaucratic structures. Then I was thinking about a thousand things, like how I don’t like to engage personally with even small-scale bureaucracy–say, with the people on the phone at the pizza place–and does that mean I have intimacy issues, or how I set up a bureaucratic rule when I named this blog, and how enabling that rule has been in reshaping how I live my daily life and the unexpected intimacies I have built with readers I will never even know, or if there is a way to bring intimacy to the sort of thing I did today, or if I would even want to even bother doing that after the bureaucracy explicitly told me that was my job–it all gave me a lot to think about. Oh, and I got to think about that sweet little interview that is my very favorite, and how friendship is a way to maybe, just maybe, get slantwise to power–I love that idea. Then it was time to get back on the bike and head up the hill, negotiating the rules of the road that put us all right next to each other where one little false move can wreak absolute havoc, but we all stuck with the rules enough for me to get safely home after a delightful evening.

One thought on “Waiting for Intimate Bureaucracies at Red Emma’s at St. Paul & Madison

  1. Wow, trying to keep up with your twists and turns and I made it. Exhausting to keep up with you when you so high are up there~ whew

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