Response – affect (from february 15)

April 20, 2012

In his text Feeling, Emotion, Affect, Eric Shouse sets out to unpack the concept of affect as a bodily response that is not preceded by thoughts, feelings or emotions. It is rather “always prior to and/or outside of consciousness”. He writes that “The body has a grammar of its own that cannot be fully captured in language.” (Shouse, 2005).

In the text an Inventory of Shimmers Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth goes on to talk about affect as not only being prepersonal as Shouse describes it, but also as being the unnoticed that is “born in in-between-ness and resides as accumulative beside-ness” (Gregg, Seigworth, 2010). This can make affect a very forceful concept, as it can execute hidden influence. This is likewise underlined when Shouse describes how “The power of affect lies in the fact that it is unformed and unstructured (abstract). It is affect’s “abstractivity” that makes it transmittable in ways that feelings and emotions are not, and it is because affect is transmittable that it is potentially such a powerful social force.” (Shouse, 2005).

The unnoticed affect is also what Melissa Greg refers to in her editorial text Affect, when speaking of how contemporary american right-wing politicians create a response in their audience that goes beyond (and strengthens) their actual political message. She refers to how Grossberg argued that “the strategy of new conservatives has been to conduct a political agenda at the level of affect, (… ) It succeeds by colonising the very mood, imagination and hope of a citizenry.” (Gregg, 2005).

So, the unconscious affective messages of these politicians amplifies as they are unnoticed, and furthermore they become statements that are hard to form a political opposition to. Shouse writes: “in many cases the message consciously received may be of less import to the receiver of that message than his or her non-conscious affective resonance with the source of the message” (Shouse, 2005).

It seems like the property of being unnoticed is a dominant feature of the concept of affect. This property makes affect difficult to define and analyse, and might very well take several readings of the texts prepared for this seminar.


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