On ‘Microperception and Micropolitics’

July 31, 2011

For this week’s writing I have chosen to discuss the first half of Of Microperception and Micropolitics, the interview between Brian Massumi and Joel McKim. The discussion largely revolves around the notion of Affect, its relation to memory, and its role in the creation of new thought.

Massumi begins by outlining his understanding of the term Affect, describing it as an “…event, or a dimension of every event”. More broadly, the term implies a certain duality, in the Event’s ability to affect, and simultaneously be affected.

The Event, which I understand produces a kind of shock (or “microshock”) on the subject, essentially prompts a transition in the subject that is felt. This subsequently activates a response from the subject that feeds back into the Event.

McKim notes “the idea that the affective shift into a different power of being carries with it a memory”. Massumi identifies three types of memory, which in essence can be distilled to a Memory of the Past (the activation of past memory through the present condition), a Memory of the Present (in which the past “energises” the present) and a Memory of the Future (that is, a “tendency”).

My understanding is that during the “affective shift” – that is, firstly, the transition of the subject caused by the shock – our three-types of memories are activated such that we are able to formulate a future position. The activation of our past memory causes feeling, while our future memory determines a bodily activation. This produces a second shift, caused by the subject back onto the object.

In its totality, I think Affect constitutes the ‘subjectivity’ between objective Events. The shock, its force on the subject through the activation of the subject’s memory, and finally the subject’s reactionary force back on the Event, constitute the Affect, in the process producing a new Event.

At the current point in time, I am not completely confident in this deduction. In my opinion, this interview lacks a rigorous structure; Massumi’s discussions of memory and Affect become increasingly frayed throughout their dialogue, making it difficult for me to reach a definite conclusion. In this sense perhaps it is a poorly structured interview, or perhaps Massumi and McKim have failed to emerge from their state of the in-between.

Danny Brookes

2 Responses to “On ‘Microperception and Micropolitics’”

  1. Danny Brookes Says:

    Thanks Helene.
    You know, after reading Nigel Thrift’s text it is interesting (retrospectively) to compare this understanding of Affect to the others he outlines in the week4 reading. In particular, less of a linguistic/cultural understanding and more a physiological, post-Darwin one… or maybe this is my inner (quasi?) rationalist speaking


  2. Danny, this is a great diagram. I like that it is loose, and not overdetermined. It nicely reflects the account you give of Massumi’s argument.


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