Affect

 

From Fellow Deirdre McKay: Affect is my entry point. By affect I mean that primal energy that flows between people and attaches us to each other, our ideas and institutions and relationships.

I choose affect as an entry point because I was doing a research project with migrant workers from the Philippines who were living in London. I was fascinated by the intensity of my respondents’ feelings of connection – and fallings out – with each other, with family back in the Philippines, and with their UK-based employers.

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Key Terms

Imaginary: A space of desire where hope, possibility and the future exist as potentials; the global is an imaginary.

Affect: That primal energy that flows between people and attaches us to each other, our ideas and institutions and relationships. Un-named but communicable, affect is manifested desire that underpins people’s emotions, behaviors and actions.

Emotion: A specific expression of a particular aspect or valence of affect. An emotion is named within a particular language frame and embodied in a specific – but culturally-variable – location.

Discussion Questions

1) How would/could you distinguish between emotion and affect in your own experience and observations? Can you give some examples?

2) This chapter argues that the global is something that people desire, despise, seek out, or avoid and to which they attribute experiences and ascribe meanings.

a) How does the global manifest in your experience as something you feel?

b) How is the global an idea that you feel something about?

c) How are the two processes – the global you feel and the global you feel about – related?

Supplemental Readings

On Affect:

Anderson, B. (2014). Encountering Affect. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.

Ahmed, S. (2004). Affective economies. Social Text 22(2), 121-39.

On How Global Affect Works: Airport Security:

Adey, P. (2009). Facing airport security: Affect, biopolitics, and the preemptive securitisation of the Mobile Body. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 27(2), 274-95.

Richard, A, and Rudnyckyj, D. (2009). Economies of affect. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15, 57-77.

Rosaldo, R. (2004). Airport in Shock and Awe: War on Words, ed. B. van Eekelen, J. Gonzalez, B. Stozer, and A. Tsing (Eds.). Santa Cruz, CA: New Pacific Books.

On Emotion, Cross-Culturally:

Beatty, A. (20050. Emotions in the field: What are we talking about?” Journal of the Royal Institute of Anthropology 11, 17-37.

Pain, R. (2009). Globalized fear? Towards an emotional geopolitics” Progress in Human Geography 33(4), 466-86.

Can be taught with these chapters

Displacement – Both chapters, Affect and Displacement, discuss migration, but from different perspectives. Does thinking of the global as made through affect, as well as produced by political economy, give us any deeper understanding of globalization and its human outcomes?

The Particular – The particular is not the same as the local!  How are the affective flows that make up globalization particular to specific circuits, experiences or groups? The Affect chapter discusses Filipino migrant workers, but what other groups might you consider?

Websites

Affect Theory Conference

TV/Film

On Filipino migration:  Chain of Love

CHAIN OF LOVE is a film about the Philippines’ second largest export product – maternal love – and how this export affects the women involved, their families in the Philippines, and families in the West.

On airport security (and deeply problematic, but good to analyze):

The ‘security strategy for the privileged’ scene from ‘Up in the Air’ (2009)

Assignments

Taking the experience of encountering airport security as an example (see suggested readings, above):

Is what (an imagined) ‘we’ feel when we encounter airport security always ‘fear’?  Is it always ‘something’ that we feel? How is this feeling conveyed to us or evoked in us? How do we pick up on this energy? Where does this feeling manifest in our bodies? What does this lived and felt experience tell us about our own global imaginary? What do the readings tell us about how universal this experience is?