Affect Theory: Worldings/Tensions/Futures

Looking forward to presenting a paper on a panel about affective capitalism in the US in mid Oct at this huge Affect Theory conference (Millersville University’s Ware Center, Lancaster PA).  The programme looks incredibly hectic – not sure when I’ll be able to fit my jet lag into the schedule – but some really interesting panels and keynotes, including Jeremy Gilbert who did a recent CCT talk for us here in Southend.

Anyhow, here’s my abstract.

Various Joyful Encounters with the Dystopias of Affective Capitalism

Tony D. Sampson, (University of East London)

This paper contends that power relations in affective capitalism are just as likely to be felt in various joyful encounters as they are in atmospheres of post 9/11 fear and securitization. Moreover, rather than grasping these encounters as an ideological trick – an illusion working on cognitive belief systems – they are conceived of as a radical relationality (Protevi, 2010) established between a desiring brain-becomingsubject and contagious sensory environments populations become politically situated in.  A trajectory of the joyful encounter is traced from its origins in early twentieth century fascism (in particular the Nazi’s realization of strength through joy) to more recent Huxleyesque endeavours by marketers to manipulate mass emotional contagions on social media. Indeed, the historical presence of repressive political affect in these examples of crowds and mediated publics prompts two neurologically oriented questions. The first concerns what can be done to a brain so that it can be unwittingly repressed by joyful encounters. The second concerns what can a brain do so that it can potentially be freed from what Malabou (2009) sees as its coincidence with capitalism. The paper concludes with the concept of the assemblage brain. Unlike a sense of self located inside the synapse or a phenomenologically situated Being in the world, brains are grasped as social relations through and through. Beliefs are not therefore produced at a cognitive level of meaning making, but following Tarde (1880) they are engendered, often involuntarily, by the appropriation of desire by social invention.

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About Virality

Tony D. Sampson is Reader in Digital Culture and Communications at the University of East London. A former musician, he studied computer technology and cultural theory before receiving a PhD in sociology from the University of Essex. His publications include The Spam Book, coedited with Jussi Parikka (Hampton Press, 2009), Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), The Assemblage Brain: Sense Making in Neuroculture (University of Minnesota Press, 2016) and Affect and Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield, due 2018). He is organizer and host of the Affect and Social Media conferences in the UK, a co-founder of Club Critical Theory and Director of the EmotionUX Lab at UEL. He occasionally blogs at: https://viralcontagion.wordpress.com/ Full academic profile: https://www.uel.ac.uk/Staff/s/tony-sampson
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