Tag Archives: new york city

Friend Date Horror Stories

11 Jan

The Friend Date, what I call that uncomfortable experience when a friendly hang out turns into a pseudo-date. Just drinks turns into, “Hey, you’re getting kind of close,” and dinner includes talking about how you’ve “always wanted to date a friend, you know?”

Friend dates consist of two parties, both of whom have a significant stake in not making things weird. Party A (I’ll call him Albert), is interested in something more with Party B (hereafter known as Beatrice), but is afraid of coming out and saying it because he isn’t sure if Beatrice will feel the same way. Beatrice doesn’t want anything more with Albert, but doesn’t know how to say so without making things awkward. Out of a strong desire to preserve the friendship, Beatrice repeatedly subjects herself to friend dates with Albert until the awkwardness of *not* telling him about her lack of interest becomes more powerful than the awkwardness of telling him.

I'll try to laugh this one off...

I’ll try to laugh this one off…

..This is awkward. I'll try some deflection.

…This is awkward. Deflect!

Okay, this is suddenly too awkward. I'm out!

Okay, this suddenly got too awkward. I’m out!

Since I moved to Brooklyn, I’ve been on a series of disastrous friend dates. My move was public, and the New Yorkers of my Facebook feed came out of the woodwork to welcome me. Old friends and friends of friends suggested “drinks to catch up,” “dinner after work,” even carpooling! In my excitement to make new friends, I eagerly accepted all invitations and occasionally extended my own.

Because I’m one of those annoying people that don’t list their relationship on Facebook, my status is ambiguous, mysterious even. This may have been why an overwhelming number of “welcome to New York” invitations were from men. Well, actually, all of them were from men.

Who ever said they weren't?

But I’m nothing if not an equal opportunity desperate friend maker, so I said yes to everything and decided I would just try to avoid the date vibe as much as possible. I practiced a number of techniques that I was sure would dissipate any perceived sexual tension. I ordered gross greasy food and ate like no one was watching.

Step 1: Eat gross food

Thousand Island Dressing and ketchup overflowed from the contents of my dishes!

I went on extended diatribes about my need to make friends in the city, my disgust with the institution of marriage, and my decidedly unsexy commitment to feminism, Occupy Wall Street, and socialism.

Step 2: Talk about things that most people won't agree with. Don't forget to be passionate!

Patronizing my political enthusiasm is a sure way to convince me to real-date you!

I paid for all my own dinners and drinks, ran out early, refused to be walked home, suggested group outings repeatedly, and enthused about my love of staying in my PJs all day and playing video games.

Once I went to a bar where a "friend" was hanging out with his friends... and he moved to a table with just me! #frienddatefail

Once I met a guy for drinks at a bar where he was hanging out with his friends… and he moved to a table with just me! #frienddatefail

Nothing worked.

Nothing worked… except one thing.

I hate being that person that talks about her boyfriend all the time. “My boyfriend said just the other day…” and “Yeah my boyfriend and I went to a play last night.” But it’s the only thing that ever worked. Dropping the B-word cleared the room of all potential suitors faster than a potato fart.

But ugh! It’s so transparent! As soon as you awkwardly drop that phrase into a sentence, the date is over. It’s like a horrible poop. You know you have to do it, but you do everything you can to put it off because it will change everything (okay that simile kind of fell apart at the end there, but you get it).

The I’m-interested-in-your-life-and-want-to-know-more-about-you act abruptly ends, and suddenly it’s all “I have to go home for work tomorrow” and “I’ll call you never.” It’s like, what happened to friends?! Friendship! I want that, please!

But there was nothing else that I could do to end the awkward misery. The friend dates became so painful that the brief moments of human interaction outside of work were no longer worth the charade. At the end of every date, I’d mention my boyfriend and the atmosphere would turn stiff, like unwashed gym clothes.

Ultimately, I’ve deduced it’s because bringing up boyfriends breaks the façade. It reveals mutual knowledge of the friend date. Because boyfriend drops are so obvious and ill-timed, they break the fourth wall and leave both parties feeling embarrassed and awkward.

Sick of these disastrous almost dates, I frantically tried to figure out strategies to better tend to my budding friendships. On my next friend date, I decided to experiment. I mentioned my boyfriend before the actual hang out, figuring that if the guy did have a date in mind, he would just cancel. No surprise there– we never hung out. Making new friends fail.

Needless to say, the Friday friend date never happened.

What does seeing my boyfriend on Saturday have to do with this conversation? Nothing. But it had to be done.

Some girls can go on friend dates without ever mentioning their lack of interest. You know who they are, those masters of weathering awkward-storms. They chuckle at veiled come ons, angle themselves so touching is impossible, and otherwise ignore the obvious friend date vibe. I can’t do that. I’ve tried. It just gets too uncomfortable! Someone has to do something, goddamn it! And if I don’t, no one will, because friend daters are awesome at ignoring body language and other signs that suggest disinterest– TED talks told me so.

That’s why I propose that all people everywhere announce their intentions before even arriving at the bar. It can be simple, like the old AIM chatroom call for more information, “a/s/l.” Next time I see a Facebook message that says, “Hey! You’re in New York– we should get drinks!” I’ll cut right through the bullshit and respond with, “TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME?!?”

Catcalling and Connections to Class

30 Sep

Cats Against Catcalling, a blog run by HollaBack.org, collects cat memes that speak out against street harassment

I showed up in Crown Heights, wearily climbing the stairs of the Nostrand ave C stop. It had been a long day– I finished work and then ran to Cobble Hill to look at an open apartment. Now I was in a different section of Brooklyn– cheaper and, from the look of the street I was on, understandably so.

Cobble Hill has clean streets fill with briskly walking busy professionals typing on cell phones. In contrast, the beautiful brownstones of Crown Heights are broken up by patches of graffiti on rolled down gates and abandoned parking lots littered with trash.

While waiting at a cross walk a young guy takes out his ear buds and looks right at me. Thinking he needs directions, I look back. I feel pretty good about myself for a second, the nice almost-midwesterner who helps people lost on the subway and smiles at strangers. “Hey beautiful,” his drawl accompanied by a slimy smirk.

This kind of interaction may not seems like a big deal. Most women do what I did– frown and walk a bit out of the way. Others pump their music and put their heads down. But being harassed on the street is a big deal. It makes women feel unsafe, violated, and powerless.

Awareness of the pervasive problem of street harassment in cities across the globe has risen, with women speaking up to share their stories and the way verbal assault makes them feel. Organizations such as Stop Street Harassment and The Street Harassment Project have made headway by publishing awareness videos and promoting International Street Harassment week.

There’s even been research on street harassment law and psychology, with Cornell law professor Cynthia Bowman writing that women repeatedly note in interviews “intrusion upon privacy and fear of rape” in response to street harassment (535).

Many of these narratives focus wholly on gender, but I think examining the intersections of race and class can also inform our understanding of street harassment. In my experiences, I run a greater risk of being harassed in less affluent neighborhoods. Sometimes I wonder about the relationship of economic oppression to the oppression of women.

I now live in Park Slope, a neighborhood filled with baby strollers and hipster dads. When I take the G to 15th street, I pass a vibrant block filled with pie shops and ice cream parlors. A group of elderly men sit on a stoop talking loudly in Spanish and a grandmother shouts goodbye to her grandson from the third story of a brown stone. “I love you! Come over again soon– any time!” My elderly neighbor stands on her front porch and watches everyone walk by, and I’m pretty sure she has the police station on speed dial in case of suspicious activity.

But this week I’ve been working in Manhattan, and I take the R to Prospect Ave at 11:oopm. My first night leaving this station I walked too close to a pudgy man on the corner of a 24 hour money order shop. You can pay credit card bills there for over 300 different kinds of credit cards, the sign says.

“Me amor,” the man hisses. The sudden movement scares me and I shy to the other side of the street. “Hey beautiful”, another guy cat-calls.

Suddenly I’m freaked. I have to walk four blocks home and I’m surrounded by strange men. They’re leering at me. I hate it.

I pull out my pepper spray and finger it nervously as I practically sprint home. I’m very aware of my casual business dress– my pencil skirt and ruffled top. My heavy laptop bag that bounces uncomfortably as I walk. I cross the street twice to avoid the sound of male footsteps following close behind me.

I sometimes tell my friends that I am trying to unlearn the fear of the city taught to me by a generation of relatives trying to get out of Brooklyn. My parents moved to Connecticut before having children and before our first trip to the city my father taught me how to identify “shady characters.”

Shady characters wear baggy clothes that look dirty and crumpled. Shady characters slouch, they aren’t clean shaven, and sometimes they smell funny. Shady characters are usually men, and shady characters steal purses and sometimes children. I should obviously never talk to shady characters, but more than that, I should avoid them at all costs. Cross the street when necessary, drop back behind them, or try to maneuver away somehow. Like avoiding a swerving car on the highway.

Now I know that anyone could be a murderer, no matter their clothes or scent. I’m not sure what this profiling does, except emphasize class lines and create division between neighborhoods in the city. Sometimes it’s really hard to remember this.

When I was six I went into the city for the first time, to see Lion King on Broadway. At the cross walk I saw a man with a crumpled shirt. I recoiled towards my parents, gripping my mother’s hand a little tighter. I pulled my tiny child’s purse close to my chest, the move that apparently most women are born with.

The man glared at me. “I’m not going to steal your purse, little girl.”

I remember the resentment, the bitterness in that voice. I remember the fear ingrained in me, so little at six, and the way that fear was immediately obvious to that man. What must it feel like to know that society has trained little girls to be afraid of you?

His words scared me even more, but sometimes when I’m being harassed on the street I think of that man. My fear now, like then, must be obvious. Sometimes I wonder if, when I’m being cat-called, my harassers are taking a perverse pleasure out of provoking that fear. Almost like they’re saying, “You’re afraid? I’ll give you a reason to be afraid.”

At those moments, I almost feel like I deserve to be harassed.

Where I work, a group of guys going to the technical school around the corner hang by my route to the subway. Every time I walk by they say, “Hey white girl.” And every time I keep walking, head down, no eye contact. As I pass they giggle and I imagine what I must look like. Uptight. Afraid. A jerk. I wonder if I am being paid back for years of fear. For clutching my purse close to my chest when I pass them. “I’m not going to steal your purse, little girl.”

Sometimes I consider turning around. I consider pointing my finger at the ringleader and asking, “Do you take pleasure out of making women feel uncomfortable? Is this what makes you happy?”

My fear always drowns this ambitious plan. Maybe he would step closer to me, taking my words as an invitation to invade my personal space. I imagine staring up at a 6″2′ body towering over me. Or maybe him and his friends would circle me, laughing. The street vendor would probably laugh, too. I don’t think pepper spray or my brown belt would be much use to me then.

In calculating how much my safety is worth, I invariably stay silent. When I consider how this group of men may have been silenced by the hypersegregation of inner cities, by the cycle of economic depression, I wonder if silencing me is a form of empowerment and retaliation. I wonder if my anger can be re-channeled into productive discussions that might enable cooperation, forward movement. All oppressions are linked.

Transnational Disjunctures Within #OccupyWallStreetNYC

27 May

In case it wasn’t clear from my many tweets, I have just recently graduated from Kansas State with my M.A. in English. Cue song: What do you do with an M.A in English?

Although I’m planning on going into digital media or marketing, I have a bunch of papers I’ve written in the past two years on topics that I find fascinating and/or meaningful. I’m debating on what to do with these papers.

I will still try and publish my writing project, but I wrote a paper in the fall semester of 2011 on the Occupy Wall Street movement and Arjun Appadurai’s transnational disjunctures. Since everything in #Occupy changes so quickly, I feel like I need to do something with this paper soon.

Basically, Appadurai argues that the individual has greater power in our era than in previous eras when it comes to disrupting global flows. Moreover, he argues against the idea of fixed communities, or global villages, by talking about how ideas move fluidly, along with the people who think/talk about them. Although several scholars have disagreed with this prediction, calling it overly optimistic, I try and argue that #OWS is enacting these disjunctures.

Am I boring you yet?

If not, read on. I’ve posted the paper in its entirety (footnotes and all) below for your reading pleasure. I’m sorry if it’s a little dry or less humorous than you’ve come to expect from this blog– it is academia, after all!

Transnational Disjunctures Within #OccupyWallStreetNYC

In “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Economy,” Ajun Appadurai asserts that our era is “strikingly new,” “changed” and in an “altogether new condition of neighborliness” (27-29).  He is referring, of course, to the explosion of new technology that has allowed individuals from across the globe to communicate en masse with communities that, in the past, would have remained separate. Appadurai points to the loss of past barriers which previously kept individuals from connecting across nations, arguing that those once insurmountable blocks have disappeared in the face of a global digital revolution. As a result of this changed global economy, he argues that our previous economic models no longer accurately describe the processes occurring in our global landscape; to correct the absence of theory appropriate for our modern economy, Appadurai offers his own model in terms of disjunctures within imagined worlds. This model has been much contested by modern anthropology and economic scholars; in this paper, I will briefly outline these contentions and offer a close analysis of a geopolitical movement, #OccupyWallStreet,1 that embodies Appadurai’s transnational theory of disjuncture and imagined worlds, thus responding to critics of the geopolitical model.

A central component of Appadurai’s transnational theory is that organizations, communities, families, and individuals are no longer defined by or tied to a specific location. Instead, individuals exist and act in imagined words that stretch and extend across the globe. This is in direct conflict with previous scholarship about the ways that modern global interactions have changed as a result of technological advances. Specifically, this conflicts with Marshall McLuhan and Bruce R. Powers, who argued in The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century that new relationships termed “global villages” have been made as a result of new media. The term “global village,” however, still emphasizes a space or location where these villages exist. In contrast, Appadurai argues that the imagined worlds in which we exist are locationless and in constant flux. They are continuously reshaped and disrupted by “disjunctures.” Disjunctures are concepts that are never static, but which flow endlessly across imagined worlds, disrupting the political and economic relationships that were once governed by static principles.

Appadurai outlines five disjunctures that are typified by the suffix “scape” to denote their irregularity. The five are titled ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes, finanscapes, and ideoscapes. These disjunctures refer to landscapes of people, media, technology, capital, and ideologies respectively, and the ways in which they move across the globe. Therefore, the “scapes” are in a constant state of flux; they refer to interactions and movements through, across, within, and around our modern economy. They are never static and operate chaotically; in other words, there is no way to predict their movements. By examining the ways in which these disjunctures flow across and through imagined worlds, we can understand the new and complex ways that transnational interactions refuse to be quantified and measured. In addition, that disjunctures occur without regards to location further illustrates the complicated nature of “space” in the modern global economy.

An integral aspect of Appadurai’s argument in “Disjuncture and Difference” is that disjunctures are enacted by and are embodied by individuals. He writes that, “the individual actor is the last locus . . . for these landscapes are eventually navigated by agents who both experience and constitute larger formations” (33).  This emphasis on individual agency has created friction in the scholarly community, with Aihwa Ong specifically disagreeing with Appadurai’s diagnosis of the lessening importance of the state in transnational interactions. Namely, Ong disagrees with Appadurai’s attack on the “hyphen” in nation-state, and his argument that “ideas of nationhood appear to be steadily increasing in scale and regularly crossing existing state boundaries” (Appadurai 40). This emphasizes the individual’s ability to take “nationhood” while leaving the state, a necessary aspect to the idea of a “locationless” or “imaginary” transnational economy. Ong argues that individuals, though they may be the ones creating transnational interactions, are heavily influenced by structures that are devised and implemented by nation-states. She questions whether “Appadurai’s formulation . . .[of]  imagination as social practice can be so independent of national, transnational, and political-economic structures that enable, channel, and control the flows of people, things, and ideas” (11). She ultimately argues that imagined worlds and imagination cannot be independent of “political-economic structures,” as these structures “control” the disjunctures (11).

However, Ong focuses on issues of access, arguing that states can and do limit access to disjunctures. This misses the idea that disjunctures exist everywhere and are pervasive; the very nature of the disjunctures is that they are unpredictable and uncontrollable, which limits the amount of control nation-states can have over transnational actions. This is true regardless of the specific nation-state or of a specific location. Ong does not recognize the unprecedented agency individuals have in creating or acting as disjunctures, agency that proves that nation-states are ultimately losing the control they once had over the actions of individuals. In fact, recently the United States has seen explosions of political movements that articulate the ways in which the majority can circumvent the policies of control by nation-states. One such movement, the #OccupyWallStreet movement, uses disjunctures to disrupt the ability for global power structures, the political elite, and the nation-state to oppress the other 99% of the people in the world.

The #OccupyWallStreet movement is a peaceful, nonviolent movement that demands an end to government corruption that places money over the basic rights of people. The guiding grievance is that 1% of the population profits at the expense of 99% of the population, and therefore the movement  “aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future” (Various Radicals). #OWS is a worldwide movement, and though the idea was conceived by the Canadian based AdBusters, an anti-consumerist magazine, the first protest occurred in New York City’s financial district on September 17th’s “Day of Action.” On the two month anniversary of the occupation, the movement declared November 17th the “Global Day of Action,” with hundreds of occupations occurring simultaneously across the globe.

In fact, the idea of “location” and “space” has become central to how the movement conceives of itself, with occupiers invoking the concept of the body as speech. They are literally “taking up space,” according to Aaron Bekemeyer in “What Does it Mean to Occupy,” with the ultimate goal of “refocus[ing] attention on the struggles and voices of the self-proclaimed 99%.” In addition, another important goal is to redefine spaces. Consider the first occupation, at the NYC Financial District. The goal was to change the conversation(s) about and in the Financial District from money, stocks, and finance to issues of social inequality. Both of these purposes exemplify a location specific attitude; in other words, the actual location is necessary for the conversation, which is opposite of the new conception of spaces that Appadurai describes. However, the discourse of the occupiers has begun to evolve as occupations are evicted from the various parks they occupy. In addition, the term “occupy” itself has begun to change as protesters articulate their reasons for joining the movement, the beliefs behind their occupations. In light of the recent eviction from Liberty Park in New York City, OccupyWallst posted the article, “You Can’t Evict an Idea Whose Time Has Come.” The title speaks to the protesters’ belief that their movement is beyond location, existing instead in an imaginary world. The article further deconstructs this idea, with the authors arguing that “Such a movement cannot be evicted. Some politicians may physically remove us from public spaces — our spaces — and, physically, they may succeed. But we are engaged in a battle over ideas.” First, this directly invokes the idea of “imaginary” that Appadurai uses to describe concepts that are not tethered to locations. Second, the slogan and its explanation speaks to the concept that the movement exists everywhere, and is not predicated on having a specific location. Reinforcing this conception of space is the phrase #OccupyEverywhere, which illustrates the movement’s pervasiveness and lack of borders.

In addition to the phrases that are based on a conception of location as pervasive and unspecific, the #Occupy movement also bases one of its defining characteristics on collectiveness. It is a leaderless movement, and there is no one person, website, political party, or news organization that can speak for the entire #OccupyWallStreet group. Everyone who is part of the 99% is a part of the movement, whether or not they realize it. Protesters will often yell to the police, “You are the 99%.” This highlights that the 99% is not something you join, it is something that you are, based on your wealth and class. This has several consequences; for one, it blurs the boundaries of location, making the conception of 99% pervasive and expansive. In addition, it creates an inclusiveness that encourages the 99% to metaphorically deconstruct state borders, recognizing that wealth inequality exists in all nations. The 99% becomes a larger unifying principle than even nationhood. In his speech to the occupation in LA as posted by the Dylan Raigan, Deepak Chopra further illustrates the unity this slogan inspires. He announced, “let us also Occupy Ourselves.  That’s our next stage – Occupy Yourself.  WE ARE THE 100%, love in action.” Notice how Chopra moves the discourse about the movement forward; he speaks a concept of unifying the transnational world that recognizes no defining borders. There is no 99%, which excludes some, only recognition of our common humanity. The statement moves beyond labels of money and wealth and towards an understanding of coexistence, democracy, conversation, and love. In addition, Chopra nuances the word “occupy,” further undermining a location specific definition. He calls for people to occupy themselves, recognizing that an occupation is an imagined idea, not a place. Here we see #OWS as it evolves and expands beyond specific locations and beyond principles that determine who is a part of the movement.

The terms 99% and #OccupyEverywhere are important ideas for my examination of #OccupyWallStreet in terms of our new geopolitical landscape, unhindered by hard conceptions of location and space. My exploration of the finanscape, ethnoscape, and ideoscape of the #OccupyWallStreet movement will show the ways that protesters disrupt attempts of the nation-state to control and shape disjunctures, ultimately proving the lessening of state control. Though I previously outlined that the movement lacks a hard location, there are occupations in cities across the globe. For the scope of this paper, it becomes necessary to narrow my discussion to focus on the disjunctures that flow through one specific occupation. #OccupyWallStreetNYC was the site of the first occupation, and the massive turnout for many of their marches has made this movement an obvious candidate for closer examination. In addition, the NYC movement has a general assembly every night, a GA that is open to everyone and which is transcripted. It also has a forum for members to discuss ideas and post updates. However, before I continue my analysis of #OccupyWallStreetNYC I want to note that focusing on one specific occupation does not ignore that these disjunctures flow throughout other #OWS camps across the world. Remember that the concept of #OWS is locationless, and my analysis of the New York City #OWS serves as one example of what is occurring across the globe. In fact, Occupy Together lists over 400 registered occupations across the globe. Of course, there may be more occupations that simply have not contacted Occupy Together, and would therefore not be listed. As Phil Arnone, a founder of #OWS, responds in his interview with Business Insider, “The symbol of the movement might be here in New York, but the movement itself is everywhere.”


Appadurai speaks of finanscapes as the “disposition of global capital,” or the flowing of currency through hands, computers, stock exchanges, and more at every level. He speaks of these movements as unpredictable and constrained by ethnoscapes and technoscapes, which set up boundaries for each other.  Importantly, finanscapes refer to not just the movement of money from one place to another, but the way capital flows across and through ethnoscapes, and the ways in which technoscapes participate in and allow for the transfer of capital. In addition, it is possible for finanscapes to apply to conversations about the flow of capital, thus blurring the line between finanscape and ideoscape.

For example, “The Declaration of the Occupation of New York,” which details a non-exhaustive list of grievances, describes at least eleven grievances that are a result of the exchange of money and profit. They refer to the illegal foreclosure processes perpetuated by banks and unregulated by the state, which allow banks to take property illegally from citizens. This illustrates the way in which property and capital is seized by banks from individuals, many of whom are now joining the protests. However, even those once-homeowners who do not claim to support #OWS are a part of the finanscape that surrounds and influences the movement. Importantly, though corrupt finances are part of the ideology behind which the #OWS supporters protest, it also is a real exchange of capital that has led to the movement of people (ethnoscapes) to the camps. In tracing the way imagined money (in terms of credit card changes, checks, petty cash, signed mortgages, etcetera) moves through, from, across, and within the camp, we view the complex finanscape of the #Occupy movement.

The “We Are the 99%” Tumblr account details the flow of people and money not just in New York, but across the nation and globe. A post published on the 28th of November in 2011 details one person’s interactions with money and banks. The Boston poster writes that her family “bought a house seven years ago,” which shows a transaction of loans and money for property with the Bank of America. The bank attempted to foreclose on the home, but after finding out the mortgage was fraudulent, the family fought back, joining the #OWS movement, and kept their home. They have since stopped making payments, with no consequence. This story illustrates two points. First, the bank attempted to write the rules of the finanscape of this family by creating a fraudulent mortgage, foreclosing on the home, and collecting payments to which the bank was not entitled. This is what Ong would call an attempt by the state, or a powerful organization complicit with the state, to influence and control a finanscape. Writing the rules of a fraudulent mortage proves this. However, the family asserted their agency, recognized the rules the system was attempting to impose, and refused to comply. The individual circumvented a global power structure attempting to influence the transnational finanscape, which is a direct embodiment of Appadurai’s argument that individuals have the power to enact unpredictable change. Second, this story, which is one among many, shows the complicated nature of the ways in which real money and imagined money changes hands, and how that transaction resulted in the movement of a person to #OWS. However, there are many times when an illegal foreclosure happens and the people involved do not know, or do not fight back, or do not then join #OWS, further illustrating the unpredictability of the disjunctures.

In addition to the flow of money that surrounds the movement, #OWS also gains capital through donations. OccupyWallStreet.org currently lists eighteen “allies” that are affiliated with #OWS and accepting donations. According to the Huffington Post article by Alexander Eichler, “Donations to Occupy Wall Street Skyrocketed in Last Three Weeks,” the NYC occupation alone had over $300,000 on October 27th. It is also interesting to note that when the state attempted to place barriers on the movement, donations to #OWS increased exponentially. Eichler writes that “on October 11, the same day more than 100 protesters were arrested at Occupy Boston, Massachusetts donations jumped by more than 400 percent.” This is another example of the state’s inability to predict the outcomes of policies attempting to control the disjunctures. In terms of Appadurai’s theory, this moment emphasizes the chaotic nature of the disjunctures, and the state’s inability to predict outcomes of attempts to control the disjunctures as they move across the imagined world. Although the police tried to control the people within the camp, they created unexpected flows of money into #OWS. This money, it is important to note, was donated by individuals, further proving the increased ability for individuals to defy the state through disjunctures.

In order to fully explore the finanscape of #OccupyWallStreetNYC (as fully as any scape can be explored), we must also note the ways in which capital moves within the camp. NPR’s Arun Venugopal reports that as of October 18th, the protesters had spent “$20,000 on computers and cameras and [$]19,000 on food.” Less important than the amount spent on supplies or other expenses, however, is the way in which money spreads throughout the camp. There have been growing disagreements over the allocation of funds, with money needed for laundry, food, sleeping bags, warm weather supplies, and electronics. Although only a few people can authorize spending of donated money, proposals submitted to the #OWS New York City General Assembly (NYCGA) are often concerned with the allocation of funds. On October 13th, the NYCGA passed a proposal to spend $25,740 on livestreaming equipment, to connect the rest of the world with the events in Liberty Plaza. The New York movement also wired $20,000 to Oakland for jail bailouts and hospital bills, subverting the state’s attempt to disperse protesters in Oakland, California. On November 11th, the NYCGA passed a proposal to spend $29,000 to send twenty occupiers to Egypt for to build the movement and for outreach. Proposals involving large amounts of money that were consistently not passed involved paying protesters for their time in the movement, compensating protesters for lost or damaged supplies, and paying for voting initiatives that would encourage participation in local government elections. It is possible to see a pattern here; the assembly is more likely to move finances for proposals that do not rest on principles that are location based or person based, but rather support the concept of uniting different groups of people. We can connect this to Appadurai’s theory of imagined worlds, as we see protesters actively trying to move beyond their locations by connecting across the globe.

The people that make up the ethnoscape are as varied as the finanscape that flows through the New York City camp. Although I briefly mention the ethnoscape of the movement earlier, a fuller definition is in order to delve more deeply into the population of #OWS. According to Appadurai, an ethnoscape refers to “the landscape of persons who constitute the shifting world in which we live: tourists, immigrants, refugees, exiles, guestworkers, and other moving groups and persons constitute an essential feature of the world” (33). The key to understanding the ethnoscape of the #OccupyWallStreetNYC movement is that the landscape is made not just of those who physically stand in Liberty Park. The landscape is also composed of those who wander in and leave; those who take pictures, ask questions, and act as tourists; those who are simply passing by on their way to work; those who support to movement by sending money or supplies from afar; those who talk about the movement, positively or negatively; those who are part of the 99%, either knowingly or unknowingly– in essence, the ethnoscape of #OWS is composed by all individuals touched by the movement in any way. The ethnoscape is not determined by a specific location, Liberty Plaza, because as the protesters say, “You can’t evict an idea” (OccupyWallSt). The idea of the movement is everywhere, and those who support the idea or touched by the idea exist everywhere.

In the previous discussion of the finanscape of #OWS, I detailed the sheer size of donations and how that money was spent. However, it is important to understand not only how the money was spent, but where it comes from. This is as much part of the ethnoscape of #OWS as the finanscape. Eichler lists where the various donations have come from, including the country and wealth bracket of the donors:

Over a quarter of donors using WePay — about 28 percent — earn more than $100,000 a year. Another 57 percent make between $35,000 and $100,000 a year.

From a geographic standpoint, the donors seem to be widely dispersed. The average donor is about 861 miles from the site of the protest they’re giving to.

Thirty-seven countries have given money to the Occupy movement through WePay, with Finland clocking the highest number of donations per capita. Other high-donating countries include Canada, Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom.

That the average donor is so widely dispersed from the site of the movement is an enormous indicator of the scope of the #OWS ethnoscape. It is also interesting to note that the people contributing to the movement are not limited to the United States. The landscape of the movement extends beyond the country and flows into other nation-states. These facts help to illustrate that the movement lacks a specific base location; although the movement started in New York City, many groups have taken a stake in the movement financially, and in other ways as well. It is also possible to better see how belonging to the movement doesn’t necessarily mean physically going to the location of Liberty Park. Many supporters are hampered by jobs don’t offer enough flexibility to travel to occupations, or may be worried about publically connecting themselves with a movement that might be against their employer’s practices.

However, it is necessary to remember that merely donating once does not constitute a flow of people through the camp; this represents only part of the ethnoscape of #OWS. Although it is true that money from different people is constantly flowing through the camp, donating once (or many times) is not what constitutes the ethnoscape. It is the idea of participating and then carrying that act of participation to other ethnoscapes that illustrates the spread and movement of the disjuncture. In addition to participating in the ethnoscape of #OWS than donating, merely talking about the movement constitutes a connection with the ethnoscape. Analyzing the flow of conversation about #Occupy better illustrates the dynamic nature of the disjuncture; Image 1 shows the forensics of the conversation about the #occupy movement on Twitter. Julia Whitty reported the findings of Marc Smith, from the Social Media Research Foundation. Smith analyzed the tweets of #OccupyWallStreet, creating a map detailing the forensics of the tweets. The Figure 1 map indicates that the #OWS ethnoscape represented on Twitter is made up of more unique connections; the responses to tweets are in blue, showing that connections branch off in a wild, unpredictable pattern. This is unlike other movements (specifically, Smith is compares #OWS to the Tea Party movement), where connections are represented in a tight circle. A tight circle rather than a broad network indicates that though there may be many people discussing the topic, the ethnoscape is made up of the same people talking to each other rather than an open flow of different people across many networks.

The volume and diversity of the Twitter conversation is especially interesting, considering that the Twitter site refused to allow any occupy related hashtags to trend. Trending topics are those that Twitter privileges by promoting on the far right of their page. Some trending topics are paid advertisements, while others are trending because of the volume of users talking about a subject. In 2010, some popular hash-tags involved the Haitian earthquake; according to “The Top Twitter Trends of 2010,” hash-tags like, “Haiti, YELE, Help Haiti, Pat Robertson, Red Cross, We Are The World 25, Text, Hope for Haiti Now, Port-Au-Prince, We Are The World, #SOSHaiti, [and] #CNNHelpHaiti” trended in 2010. However, despite the enormous volume of people tweeting about #OWS, as detailed in Figure 1, no #occupy related tags were featured. Some have speculated that this could be because the protests would be considered antithetical to the paid advertisement trends promoted by Twitter. Despite this possibly planned attempt to stifle the discussion of #OWS and limit the ethnoscape on Twitter, Figure 1 shows that the protesters were successful in expanding the network of people conversing about the movement. This speaks to the power of individuals to subvert attempts to control and limit the movement of disjunctures by global power structures. Twitter may have attempted to limit the expansion of the ethnoscape of #OWS, but ultimately users subverted this attempt, as exemplified by Figure 1.

Although I previously pointed to the diversity of donors and protestors in terms of location and wealth, in considering the ethnoscape of #OWS we must also discuss the demographics of protesters in regards to gender and race. Sean Captain reported the research of Harrison Schultz, a developer of the Occupy Wall Street organization website, and Hector R. Cordero-Guzman, a professor at Baruch College, which found that 81.2% of the protesters are white, and only 37.5% are female (See Figure 2). This survey is a result of a questionnaire prompt for visitors to the Occupy Wall Street organization website, and it does not reflect the makeup of actual protesters in the park. Captain had previously reported that in the park, there seems to be a larger percentage of minorities than appear in the official Internet based poll. However, as previously mentioned, the ethnoscape of the movement consists of more than the people in the park. In addition, Captain remarks that some are choosing to define themselves verbally in terms of nationality rather than race, which was not an option on the questionnaire. Still, the lack of minority response of the questionnaire seems to detract from the fluidity of the ethnoscape of #OWS, speaking to the movement’s inability to resonate with minorities and women. This may be an example of the movement’s inability to completely subvert the patriarchal and racist dominant ideology of the state, lending credence to Ong’s emphasis of the state’s ability to restrict some disjunctures. However, this moves into a conversation about the ideoscape of #OWS, where I will discuss this idea further.


In fact, several women and minority groups within the NYC General Assembly have spoken out against racism and sexism. Sadly, these concerns are often dismissed by other protesters and the media. This has left many African American women protesters frustrated that #OWS just does not “understand” the problems of the black community (Walker). This, although connected to the ethnoscape of the movement, is also very much a part of the ideoscape of the imaginary world of #OccupyWallStreet. Appadurai defines ideoscapes as “concatenations of images, but they are often directly political and frequently have to do with the ideologies of states and the counter-ideologies of movements explicitly oriented to capturing state power or a piece of it” (35). Considering the ideoscape of #OccupyWallStreet in light of this definition, we see that the movement is within the landscape of the larger political ideology of the global world and the United States. However, #OWS is “explicitly oriented to capturing state power,” which is currently held by major corporations. The “About” section of the Occupy Wall Street website notes their mission:

#ows is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. The movement is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future.

#OWS is specifically attempting to reclaim power from those who are currently “writing the rules,” pointing to the fact that the movement is very aware of the currents of the global power system in our global economy. In a modern world where corporations and governments are closely intertwined, the movement claims to want to take power back from nation-states and the corporations within them.

However, the conflict voiced by African American and women protesters notes the complicated and diverse nature of ideoscapes, and the #OWS landscape of ideology in particular. The #OWS movement is committed to “empowering one another against all forms of oppression,” according to their “Principles of Solidarity,” and this statement seems implicitly against the patriarchal, racist system that currently governs the global economy. Still, many members actively resist acknowledging and using these words. In the NYC General Assembly on the 23ed of October in 2011 one member, Christian, calls out the vague language of the previously quoted statement. He says that the vision “need[s] to explicitly call out an end to patriarchal racist classism.” However, this criticism has yet to make it into the posted “Principles of Solidarity.” This example, and other incidents where accusations of racism and sexism have been ignored, acknowledges that though #OWS may want to remove itself from the ideoscape it is embedded within, there are constant influences and conflicts with individual ideologies, the written ideology of #OWS, and the larger ideology of the modern world. These ideologies are constantly in flux, making themselves apparent as members of the movement voice them, write them, embody them, and fight them.

Noting the influence of the state ideology on the movement’s ideology and individual’s ideologies does lend credence to Ong’s previous claims that scholars should not ignore the influence of the nation-state on individual actors. However, Appadurai’s argument, and by extension my own argument about the imaginary world of #OWS, does not ignore the ways in which power structures influence individuals. We are noting, though, that individuals have agency within existing structures to subvert state power. Appadurai is pointing to the possibilities individuals have to disrupt global power structures, thus creating an inability for the political elite to predict the outcome of their attempts to control global flows. So, though the nation-state may have felt their ideology was solidly in place, the #OccupyWallStreet movement can disrupt this ideology and attempt to influence state ideology with their other visions and principles.


The analysis presented here of the finanscape, ethnoscape, and ideoscape of #OccupyWallStreet movement is incomplete; at this point, the #OWS protests have only been occurring of three months. However, the disjunctures discussed here help to prove that Appadurai’s vision in “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Economy” of the changing political-economic landscape of the transnational world is indeed imaginary, undefined by location or hard community relationships. It points to a revolution of movements defining themselves not by hard terms, leaders, members, and spaces, but of the growing conception of the imaginary world as shaped by uncontrollable, unpredictable landscapes. We have briefly seen the ways in which the state has attempted to use finanscapes, ethnoscapes, and ideoscapes to influence the movement, and seen as well how those attempts have been shaped and changed by individual influence. Though it is indeed terrifying to recognize that our world is entering a new sphere where preexisting rules no longer govern transnational interactions, it is important to recognize the power this change grants to the individual to enact change in the transnational political-economic world.


  1. Throughout this paper, I will be using hashtags (indicated by #). These hashtags are important because they are primarily the means through which the #Occupy movement expands its influence through twitter, and shows support of like-minded ideas. I will use several hashtags: #OccupyWallStreet, #OWS, #Occupy, and others. These hashtags refer to both the #Occupy community and to the ideals, philosophies, and principles behind the movement. In addition, I will respect the punctuation and spelling choices of all my sources, though they may not conform to the guidelines of Formal Written English.

Figure 1: “Social Media Network Connections Among Twitter Users Who Mentioned Occupy Wall Street” created by FastCompany

Figure 2: “Who is Occupy Wall Street?”

Works Cited

Aaron Bekemeyer. “What Does it Mean to Occupy?” Consider Magazine. University of Michigan, 26 October 2011. Web. 12 December 2011

Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.” Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 27-47.

Arnone, Phil. “A Founder of ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Talks about Movement’s Origin and What Comes Next.” An Interview with Business Insider. The Raw Story. The Raw Story, 2011. Web. 12 December 2011.

Captain, Sean. “The Demographics of Occupy Wall Street.” Fast Company. Mansueto Ventures LLC., 19 October, 2011. Web. 12 December. 2011.

—.  “Infographic: Who Is Occupy Wall Street?” Fast Company. Mansueto Ventures LLC., 2 November 2011. Web. 12 December 2011.

“The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City.” nycga.net. #OccupyWallStreet New York City General Assembly, 29 September 2011. Web. 12 December 2011.

Eichler, Alexander. “Donations to Occupy Wall Street Skyrocketed in Last Three Weeks.” Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc, 28 October, 2011. Web. 12 December 2011.

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Ong, Aihwa. Excerpt from Introduction. “Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality.” Flexible Citizenship.

Ratigan, Dylan. “Deepak Chopra at Occupy LA: “Keep moving and keep Occupying!” DylanRatigan.com, 25 November 2011. Web. 12 December 2011.

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Various Radicals. “About.” Occupywallstreet.org. OccupyWallStreet, n.d. Web. 12 Demember 2011.

Venugopal, Arun. “OWS Donations Create Headaches For Protesters.” National Public Radio. NPR, 4 November 2011. Web. 12 December 2011.

Walker, Reena. “A Black Woman Who Occupied Wall Street: Why I Won’t Be Going Back.” Facebook.com, 14 October, 2011. Web. 12 December 2011.

“We Are the 99%.” wearethe99percent.tumblr.com. Tumblr, 28 November 2011. Web. 7 December, 2011.

Whitty, Julia. “Tweet Forensics: Occupy vs. Tea Party.” Mother Jones. Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress, 17 November 211. Web. 12 December 2011.

Working Group on Principles of Consolidation. “Principles of Solidarity.” nycga.net. #OccupyWallStreet New York City General Assembly, 23 September 2011. Web. 12 December 2011.

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