After Lauren

Katie Stewart

Lauren hated academic politics. 

Collaboration took its ferocious place. A bossy push for associational thinking together.

She wanted reaction; she wanted to be edited; she wanted reciprocity.

It was hard to keep up with her. She’d wait.

Our phone calls were long in the tooth. Stories with back stories and speculations, each of us hanging on the other’s every word, she already typing notes, rewriting sentences, feeling-out a  structure of tentative lines around something that seemed to be showing-up.

A phone call accreted a world of words. 

It would open into the funny. The tip into play was the most serious thought we had. Company was in the riff. We held there like card players staring at the colorful miracle of a handful of queens arrived from somewhere, already shot through with intensity, already composing and decomposing.

We sharpened what words we had; we twisted off. Nothing was ever dismissed out of hand though thoughts failed. We’d land in a logic of one thing after another, fragments languishing, bodies laden in the skittish overwhelm of the crisis ordinary, an endless potential, good and bad.

I remember once after a hard session together in Berlin where things happened as we tried or failed to defend each other from attack she came up behind me and threw her arms around my neck like a monkey.

For Lauren, enduring was not a minimalist practice. She showed up.

For her, to be intellectual is to produce new forms for optimism by being in sync with someone, with something forming up in some rickety damaged world.

Work, after Lauren, is a binding to things ideas people smells we don’t know. The binding is what matters in the labor of making a more fitting world for the affects we have.


Kathleen Stewart is a professor in the Anthropology Department at the University of Texas, Austin. She writes and teaches on affect, the ordinary, the senses, and modes of ethnographic engagement based on curiosity and attachment.

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