This essay reflects upon the intimate entanglement of superfluity and boredom in postcommunist Bucharest, Romania, where the politics of social exclusion unfolds through the inability to participate in consumer practices and chronic underconsumption leaves the city’s most excluded population—the homeless—bored day in and day out. In response, men discarded from work and home by a brutally competitive economy head into the bowels of the city’s transit hubs, where they organize a market for sexual favors. This essay takes this consumer-based response to deepening poverty as an opportunity to explore the subjective and affective dimensions of radical exclusion in a prolonged moment of neoliberal instability. It asks, ultimately, what kind of danger does boredom, and the inclination to manage that boredom through consumer practices, pose? This is a historical and ethnographic question that provides insight into the stiffening of class boundaries in Bucharest, but also in other similarly positioned cities in Eastern Europe and the global South.
Bored Stiff: Sex and Superfluity in a Time of Crisis
Bruce O’Neill is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and in the Center for Intercultural Studies at Saint Louis University. His ongoing research in Bucharest, Romania, examines the cultural politics of poverty and belonging. His work has appeared in Cultural Anthropology (vol. 29, no. 1), Environment and Planning D (vol. 28, no. 2), and a special issue of Ethnography (vol. 13, no. 4), which he coedited.
Bruce O’Neill; Bored Stiff: Sex and Superfluity in a Time of Crisis. Public Culture 1 May 2015; 27 (2 (76)): 387–405. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-2841916
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