Atmosphere of Jackson Heights


Every time I pass by Jackson Heights, I encounter a number of people looking so different from me and I become conscious about it. Even though I am already living in New York where almost all nationalities of people live in, I still feel so exotic whenever I stop by the neighborhood. I feel like I am a visitor, foreigner or outsider. But other than this place, I’ve hardly experienced the feeling. And why is that?

I think it’s because its atmosphere and affect spread by it. Massumi argues that our reception of external stimuli occurs in two levels: that of form/content and that of intensity/effect. According to Massumi, people can make sense of their perceptions on the form/content level by narrativizing their experiences, while a perception on intensity/effect is “a non-conscious, never-to-be conscious autonomic remainder” of physical reactions to external stimuli (Massumi, 25). A variety of food and ethnicities is enough for me to understand why Jackson Heights is culturally rich and fun to explore, but that does not explain why I “feel” like I am one of strangers whenever I get to the neighborhood.


 According to Bergson, “Affect is an affection [in other words an impingement upon] the body, and at the same time the idea of the affection” (Bergson 31). It is true that the neighborhood itself is what generates the atmosphere. When I look around the area, I see Tibetan dumpling street food car and smell strong Indian spices and encounter various traditional religious costumes worn by people walking around, which all catch my eyes. I also hear languages that sound very different from English to Chinese, and from Spanish to Nepali or whatever the language is, and songs coming out of stores that contains so different rhythms and melody. Including lots of different restaurants, the physical surroundings/infrastructure I can feel with my sensory system generate affect so strong. When I recall the images or smell, they come to as pieces. Brennan argues that there is no central power that governs assemblages as a whole; rather the effects generated by assemblages generated by assemblages are emergent properties, emergent in that their ability to make something happen, which is distinct from the sum of the vital force of each materiality considered alone. Those all distinctive pieces of the neighborhood, from sound to smell, each serves as a physical factor that generates Jackson Heights’s own powerful atmosphere.

~ by Boraborashoot on October 4, 2015.

3 Responses to “Atmosphere of Jackson Heights”

  1. Bora –

    Awesome images! They make me hungry.

    Your discussion of the way Jackson Heights affects you is essential. The fact that you felt as though you were an outsider in this space that is seemingly so all-inclusive, a cultural catch-all, is very interesting to me. Is there an exclusivity to this cultural hodgepodge? It’s unexpected but go deeper with that as it is the genuine affect you experienced as an outsider.

    Also your discussion on assemblages and memory is poignant. It poses the question, how do we recall affect?

    Go deeper in your descriptions of smells and sounds! As a reader I’d love to come as close as possible to experiencing them with you.

    Great job.
    – Jamie

  2. I like that you are exploring the nuances of ‘otherness’ in your identity, as a minority living in New York. As you mentioned, New York is already a pretty diverse place– but we still manage to feel out of place in a lot of contexts. I think your argument that the feeling of otherness stems from your senses is interesting, that unusual sensory experiences can affect your feeling of belonging. I think it would be worth it to continue thinking about being ‘other’ in an already ‘other’ space.

  3. I find you description of the ‘feel’ of you being a stranger in your chosen ecology to be exceptionally interesting! Also very nice choice of imagery!

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