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Watching the satellite image load on my screen around lunchtime, it is hard for me to identify bodies of land, the characteristic sharp edge of France or the icy fingers of Norway. I am not sure if I can make out the fingerprint that is Iceland in the North Atlantic, normally so disinguishable. With my 'orientation devices' missing, I am lost to dis/orientation in the swirls of water vapour, the speckles of reflective cloud-light and the nondescript grey pressing down on me from above. Later in the day, I am reading Mel Chen's piece 'Feminisms in the Air' and in the very last sentence Chen introduces a term I have not heard before, 'melancholic pragmatism'. They write, “Out of the desperation and melancholic pragmatism of this moment, at stake are a series of questions about the “about” of feminisms whose imaginations promise something in the end” (2020: 29). I follow the footnote to read more about 'melancholic pragmatism', and find the following: ““Melancholic pragmatism” is a phrase that emerged in my conversation with philosopher and activist Alisa Bierria on October 17, 2020, about melancholies that do not end in what can be a strangely idealistic form of lossful nihilism, or that are perpetually delayed or denied, but are permitted to exist, registering layers of complexity and acceptance of inevitable complicity and incompletion” (2020: 29). I can relate to this definition of melancholic pragmatism, as it feels like the affective texture of what remains in many of my friends and family members after experiencing the winter of 2024 and the collective witnessing of war crimes in Palestine, Sudan and elsewhere. I imagine that Chen, writing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, might have been feeling a slightly different melancholy, with different layers of 'complicity and incompletion' but nevertheless I think there are similarities, not least of which is the sense that neither nihilism or denial are workable options. Instead, we permit our ethical and moral melancholies to exist, we permit the impenetrable grey skies to press down, and we permit the understanding of a year of climate catastrophe that is only beginning to show how much of an anomaly it truly is. As my workday draws to a close around 7pm I fantastise about writing Chen an email to ask: what is your melancholy layering now? what are you permitting?


12 June 2024 12:36:57


Hackney Downs, London

Country or Territory

United Kingdom


Sasha Engelmann



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Latitute / Longitude

51.554571, -0.059564