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“If you pull too hard on the cord, it comes loose”: Boredom and Temporal Uncertainty among Newcomers in Germany - Guest Lecture (Open to the university public), Research Factory B/ORDERS IN MOTION

2. Juni 2021, 16:15
2. Juni 2021, 17:45
Online via Zoom (only open to the university public)

“If you pull too hard on the cord, it comes loose”: Boredom and Temporal Uncertainty among Newcomers in Germany

Guest Lecture, Research Factory B/ORDERS IN MOTION

Lecturer: Leonie Schulte (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford)

Boredom is a pervasive and recurrent element of temporal experience among the migrants and displaced people enrolled in Berlin’s language-and-integration courses. Required to learn intermediate German in order to work, study and obtain permanent residency and citizenship eligibility, newcomers to Germany spend years in and out of state-funded “integration” programmes. Sitting in language classrooms for four hours a day, five days a week, boredom felt all-encompassing. However, this was not the kind of boredom that has historically been linked to a sense of ennui; a state of listlessness and disengagement, particularly amidst the mundanity of everyday routine (Lefebvre 1984; Goodstein 2005). It went beyond the mere tedium of everyday grammar exercises. Instead, as my interlocutors would describe to me, the boredom they experienced was a product of temporal uncertainty: the absence of anchoring points through which to anticipate and navigate the future (Bryant and Knight 2019). It was a manifestation of combined experiences of restricted mobility, limited access to information and resources, social alienation and prolonged experiences of waiting without the certainty of desired outcomes. This paper is based on 15 months of extensive ethnographic fieldwork inside three state-funded language-and-integration programmes in Berlin. I argue that while Germany’s “integration” programmes are designed to accelerate newcomer access to employment, higher education and citizenship, in practice, they significantly delay their socioeconomic mobility. It is in large part because of the slowing effect these programmes have that newcomers encounter this sense of boredom: a cord being pulled in various directions and yet, tethered to the same place.



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