Of Microperception and Micropolitics

August 4, 2011

Affect is described as the felt moment of bodily moving on [1], a felt transition that leaves evidence and composes a memory, whether it be conscious or not. During his interview Of Microperception and Micropolitics, Brian Massumi discusses this notion of affect as an event. It is stressed that affect takes many forms [2]. It is part of a series of repetitions, as the body is continually bound up with the lived past [3].


The event is described as a reactivation of the past in its course toward a changed future, cutting transversally across dimensions of time, the in-between [4].  Massumi proposes that we start at this ‘in-between’, the middle of a region of relation (of body capacitation, felt transition, quality of lived experience, memory, repetition, seriation, inclination [5]) to determine the potential of the future.

Potential wraps itself around affect, around the event, readily interrupted by shocks. Massumi emphasises that affect is inseparable from the concept of shock, or more specifically, the microshocks that populate every moment of our lives [6]. These microshocks describe an interruption, a momentary cut, a shift of attention – Massumi’s use of the term microperception, as something unconsciously felt and registered only in its effect. In order for the shock to be consciously recognised, there must be a questioning of the cause of the affect, which in turn individualises and personalises the feeling as your own [7].

It is noted that affect must be complemented with a movement in or of the body. The body carries tendencies reviving the past and already striving toward a future [8]. Massumi suggests that this feeling of transition from one power of existence to another [9]can be reactivated in different series/ relations stimulated by memory. He continues to explain that there are different types of memory in relation to the past, present and future, the conscious and the unconscious.

Unconscious memory moves from the immediate past to energise the immediate present, a readying of the future [10]contributing to activating the event of lived experience. Conscious memory reaches back to reactivate the past. It can also take its path as a Kierkegaard memory [11] whereby the limit point of a tendency contracted in the past is remembered and reactivated.

Therefore, although Massumi states that we start the event in the middle, the in-between, if affect is induced by memory do we not unconsciously always begin with the past?

[1] Brian Massumi, ‘Of Microperception and Micropolitics, in Inflexions, online journal, no. 3, October 2009, p. 3

[2] Massumi, Inflexion, p. 1

[3] Massumi, Inflexion, p. 2

[4] Massumi, Inflexion, p. 2

[5] Massumi, Inflexion, p. 2

[6] Massumi, Inflexion, p. 4

[7] Massumi, Inflexion, p. 5

[8] Massumi, Inflexion, p. 5

[9] Massumi, Inflexion, p. 3

[10] Massumi, Inflexion, p. 7

[11] Massumi, Inflexion, p. 9

– Naomi Brennan


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