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In the works...

01.  an essay on spikey things flying at my face - 15.05.2024

02. archives of an anthropologist - 15.04.2023

an essay on spikey things flying at my face

an essay i’ve been working on but i feel guilty writing instead of screaming
state: draft + nervous-system writing
15 May 2024

I am finally medication-free after nearly a year and a half of pain and panic.

I didn’t think this would become a list of things that make me angry, but maybe that’s what it will become. I am angry about a lot of things. I only write when I am angry.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. Recently I was telling my partner about how fucked the situation is. I was recalling how the United States government often funds right-wing coup d’états in countries where we have active resource extraction and other imperial endeavors - many of these coups leading to assassinations of members of leftist political parties, insane armament of right-wing militias that then inflict violence on the civilian populations there, military-run governments, mass oppression, where do we stop? What is this fuckery, we asked ourselves. I was thinking through this while also being insanely stressed about a task I was supposed to complete literally months ago, that I think about every morning, that I plan nearly every evening during the week to do and never do - go to the auto-shop and get a small corner of my car painted because someone slightly scratched me while parking. I am supposed to be writing but can’t write about anything else except for the things that make me angry.

Make it make sense that you can work as an engineer for the biggest arms company in the world and then go to church on Sundays? Make it make sense how your knowledge, your technology, is being used to bomb Bethlehem, the city of your martyr that you praise as your deity. I will give you a hint: it doesn’t make any fucking sense, and you either have to be outright completely ignorant or in denial, which is worse. You’re aware that you worship someone whose morals were so blatantly different than yours, and you cannot process that those morals play out in real-time, and religion doesn’t exist for these type of people in the real-and-the-now as things-that-really-happen and history-as-actually-being-written-in-the-present. It is a deep fracture in a moral compass, not that that should be shocking anyone nowadays seeing the irony in everything everyone does, turning a blind eye is our favorite hobby. This is why I don’t talk to that motherfucker and I don’t even give a shit if it’s about family. I tell people I’m an only child, but will delve into context if it suits the story of me.

I do not at all understand the obsession with a superstar, who makes bland and very generic music in fact, and how this obsession can be maintained by an average person knowing that she produces something like 1000 times more carbon than the average person in a year? Yeah, I respect any artist that can somehow manage a full tour with insane 3-hour concerts (maybe it’s brute force, maybe it’s cocaine). I also agree strongly with having more women on stage, but does she? Has she, ever once, actually advocated for small artists? While opening her tour with Paramore?

So, here I am again, re-reading the “awakenings” carol by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, while everyone is talking about something sensitive that I had no interest to listen in on, because I absolutely had to finish reading this thing, because I am obsessed with it. I see seemingly-normal things in my daily life and even that makes me want to rip my fucking eyes out too.

I’ve noticed I’ve been more stressed than normal, and I am craving actually, properly crawling under my bed and hiding from the world. When I cry I hide underneath my covers and then hide me hiding under the covers with stacks of pillows. This was my hide-and-seek trick turned hide-and-cry abode. I’ve started reading Big Swiss by Jen Beagin, because I want to imagine myself as a just-a-girl who reads smut and knits and talks the way I write. When I actually talk though, I am selfish and pretentious and take up too much space and I mumble, I always have the impression someone is not getting what I am saying. I minded at a moment, tried to perceive every little thing and sugar-coat my words as much as I could, shut the fuck up so that I am not always interrupting, but now I don’t mind again.

I was sick for a year and a half, and was visiting a psychologist to try to get a grip on anxiety and stress-management techniques - of which I already had a strong grip. I have been gripping and managing my panic attacks since I was 15. They would come and go in phases, but they were always there. But when I decided to go back into therapy again for the 4th time, they were bad.

One of my therapists was an addiction therapist, who I was seeing while I was in California through the Drug and Alcohol Program on campus. I actually didn’t struggle with any addiction, but occasionally smoked a cigarette late at night in my car, and frankly, I just really needed a therapist. It was a lot easier to see the therapists there than the therapists at the actual counseling department, since we all know every student was trying to get into therapy.
One time, she was out of office and had a replacement therapist, who had the audacity to ask me if what I was experiencing was actual panic attacks. Well sir, I would imagine me feeling like I am being hunted for sport, and then accordingly avoiding certain situations where I know I have these attacks, sound very phobic-like.. I wouldn’t imagine any normal person experiencing this and I certainly do not see it happening around me. So I couldn’t tell you. That was my last day of therapy at their office.

My therapist here was great, and she made me talk a lot about my family. I didn’t think I needed to, but I did. 

I had to somehow justify my pain and my panic to others. I had to constantly explain that things-aren’t-good-right-now and maybe-I-need-this-and-I’m-sorry-it-doesn’t-make-any-sense, give a small sib that I had received some type of diagnosis or some type of doctoral prognosis when I was just making shit up from my own research, not that I trusted doctors to actually do anything anyway or understand better than I do. This theory has remained tried and true; every doctor seems actually fucking clueless, even the ones in the emergency room when I said “I think it’s my fucking thyroid” and I was sick as a dog and they didn’t say it but I am sure they let me out accepting I was probably pregnant and in denial. Spoiler: I wasn’t pregnant.

But, I did know that some things helped. When I just outright told people I can’t, because I am sick, the not doing the thing I really shouldn’t be doing actually helped. So, I just told people I was sick and suffering from chronic pain, which was true, and I wish I knew more in that moment but I didn’t, and neither did anyone else. Finally, I am feeling better, but don’t want to tell anyone because I don’t know how much better or for how long, and I want to avoid doing the things that I couldn’t before simply because I don’t want to or maybe they contribute to my state from before.

I get a lot of questions about why I am in Switzerland, and I can’t help but think. Why the fuck not? I think some people cannot understand what it means to run away and just end up where you end up. That makes me mad too, when people think I come from something, like money or privilege. Yes, there were those things on ocassion, and I got fucking lucky. I traveled a lot. I had some amazing people around me, and I cherish my ancestors. I am lucky to have not been pregnant as a teen, and that I survived even being equally surrounded by predators. I survived when many of my friends didn’t. That’s the thing. These people don’t understand what it means to have to escape something, or maybe they forgot.

Sometimes I just lay in bed and things turn and swirl. I have a recurring closed-eyed hallucination that goes all the way back to my childhood, and I have absolutely no control of it. I can also feel when it is about to happen. Sometimes, I close my eyes and I try to imagine things, normal things, that I see during the day. Me talking with someone, the room that I was just in, or an imaginary future scenario. When I was stuck in a class I didn’t like, I would feel like I was watching TV just by giving myself a prompt of a future scenario and playing it out in my head. Normally involving something sexual. But sometimes, the hallucination would kick in. I wish I could explain it but it’s as if a TV signal just got cut and all you see are white noise lines or things on the screen getting distorted by a bending mirror; things rapidly getting small, far away, spikey, and then suddenly zooming hyper-close like they were suddenly in front of my face and puffy. Normally it properly scared me out of whatever I was working on in my head, and I had to keep my eyes open because it would just keep happening, with no control whatsoever, when my eyes were closed. 

My nightmares consisted of that, imagining that I’m stuck there and I can’t open my eyes anymore. A world where nothing makes sense. I am a professional at balancing on that line, one slip away from falling into a deep and long psychosis. I know what it tastes like, I know what it smells like, like an old perfume stuck to my childhood bed sheets when it was harder for me to get out of and harder for me to open my eyes. As a kid it would make me cry hysteric every time it would happen. 

This world existed alongside my own nightmares playing-out-in-real-time, but they were easier to focus on because they were dark and scary and didn’t try to mask as anything else. Like people in my family or politicians or megastars. 

I think I might already be there now, but that’s none of my business.

archives of an anthropologist

"Auto-ethnography" and epistemic obedience in writing about oneself.
state: old
15 April 2023

During the fall semester (from the first year of my studies at HEAD - Genève), I took a course titled Se raconter. In English, this means "to recount oneself", or to tell a story about oneself.

My first concern, of course, was how I was going to manage my first graduate-level course 100% in French. My French has certainly improved, now that I have been using it conversationally for about two years - but I will be honest when I say I have not taken a proper French course in that time (nor do I read or write in French).

It wasn't until the course started that the second and most pressing concern dawned on me. I am a researcher. How am I going to write or tell a story about myself?

In anthropology, this method is used on and off and is often called "auto-ethnography", or ethnography on the self. It consists of writing about our experiences, our lives, ourselves in various aspects. It is nonetheless used as a means of positioning, as an important aspect of ethnographic writing in general (since our perspectives, background, interests, etc. normally drastically effect on every aspect of the ethnographic process).

Somehow, since we (*cough* the anthropologists) are still in the midst of proving our academic and scientific rigor in the institution, it seems hyper-performative to call the practice of telling stories about ourselves an 'auto-ethnography'. Anyhow, in terms of solidarity with those that are breaking rules and testing the limits of how we do what we call research, I will also use the term on occasion.

Research has certainly done an injustice by ostracizing the self from its practices, and somewhere along the way (I blame Descartes) became contrary to objectivity. To many, it always felt obvious and necessary - how can we do research without telling the reader what our lenses are? A huge confounding variable is missed when we avoid telling the story of ourselves first - who we are, where we come from, why this matters to us, and an attempt to explain why we see things the way we do. Humans are not telescopes or lab equipment - we are messy, we are each built differently, we have billions of elements that differentiate one from the other at microscopic levels, and frankly, we are extremely unreliable tools when it comes to mediating research. Even more so when we avoid, or even fear, telling about those bits that differentiate ourselves.

However, I am glad that anthropology is a field where this is becoming more and more the norm, even if we still have a long way to go pedagogically. My efforts to write about myself began in "positioning" and "positionality", and then became something of background, etc. This, of course, was more than you find in any other field of research, but it is poor at athuentically and accurately describing our lenses (and frankly, just straight-up boring to read). I also had the chance, during my last semester at IHEID, to take a course titled Writing Ethnography with the incredible professor and writer Denielle Elliott. From that point on, my attempts of writing about myself continued from a place of journalling, the only type of journalling I knew: self-improvement logs, daily motivation journal, of the sorts. 
Documenting my mental health, essentially. Seeing that Denielle had written about herself as a time traveler in her own forms of auto-ethnography, I knew I could do better too. (If you are reading this Denielle, thank you for the patience of reading my daily journals, in all of their ugliness. I promise my writing is improving!)

So, this course I had embarked on was a way of taking another approach. What if, I just wrote about myself and my experiences, instead of thinking that it was going to be research? What if I just wrote? What if I also wrote without purpose and see what came out? What if I wrote all of the things that I wanted (or needed) to write, the things I was scared to put in my diary because I was scared someone would read it?

That's essentially the approach I took, and I have made it an essential part of my research and project. I've realized that the conventions of research that I always knew were poor conventions, and that I can use this form of expression, de se raconter, as a way of countering these pedagogical and epistemological conventions.

One of the most important questions I have carried with me since my course with Denielle (and the many inspirations from Michel Taussig): "What is the field demanding of me?" and subsequently, "Is my writing doing justice to the field?" These questions are not answerable, but at least provide direction when moving past our conventions. These are the same questions I have held onto in my new research on "Colorado in Convulsion." My research began as an ethnographic exploration of collective memory, historical apathy, and deconstructing archives. The work has now since moved into a deeply personal realm regarding my own affective dimension - of my own experiences with trauma linked to place and childhood, personal genealogy and lost histories, the United States drug epidemic, alcoholism and abuse, poverty, and rural American politics. Suddenly, the self couldn't be left out, the self was central. I was refracting all of the stories of the place through my own traumas and pains and loves and hopes.

My work has such followed various disassembled, unorganized, chaotic routes of finding the affective channels, linkages, and movements between my own experiences and this place - and how I hope to bring it together into an ethnography. These are my first attempts at epistemic disobedience (thank you Walter Mignolo for this one and so much more).

I am slowly learning and trying to write and create in a way that does justice to those I write about and the stories I tell. Including my own.


  1. Collage

  1. Arial
  2. Handwritten text

  1. Fall 2022, Se raconter, Marcia Burner
  2. master-platform.ch, 6 ECTS

    Se raconter est un atelier de trois jours dans lequel on envisagera l’écriture comme un moyen d’écrire et de transmettre sa réalité propre, un moyen de faire mémoire et archives de nos vies. A travers des exercices d’écriture ponctués de lectures et d’une réflexion sur un corpus de textes d’autofiction, de poésie ou de non-fiction (zines, journaux intimes, essais, romans, livres photographiques) l’atelier explorera au fil des séances les différentes formes que prend l’écriture de l’intime. Il permettra aux étudiant.e.s de coucher sur papier les interrogations identitaires qui les traversent, de réfléchir sur le rôle des archives, d’affiner ou de découvrir une pratique créative littéraire, d’éclaircir un projet artistique lié à l’exploration de leur vie intime ou à leur trajectoire biographique, ou tout simplement, de débloquer l’écriture.

    Marcia Burnier est une autrice franco-suisse. Elle a publié son premier roman, Les Orageuses (Editions Cambourakis, collection Sorcières), en septembre 2020 et son deuxième est à paraître au printemps 2023 aux mêmes éditions. Née à Genève, elle y a grandi puis a notamment suivi des études de photographie et cinéma à Lyon et à Philadelphie, et vit désormais sur les bords du Leman. Elle a co-créé le zine littéraire féministe It’s Been Lovely but I have to Scream Now et a publié différents textes (nouvelle, non-fiction) dans les revues Terrain Vague, Art/iculation et sur les sites de Retard Magazine et du Huffington Post notamment. Elle a également co-organisé des rencontres littéraires entre autrices au Château de Ligoure.