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The Cyndi Lauper Affect

Bodies, Girlhood and Popular Culture

Kristina Gottschall, Susanne Gannon, Jo Lampert and Kelli McGraw

Using a collective biography method informed by a Deleuzian theoretical approach (Davies and Gannon 2009, 2012), this article analyses embodied memories of girlhood becomings through affective engagements with resonating images in media and popular culture. In this approach to analysis we move beyond the impasse in some feminist cultural studies where studies of popular culture have been understood through theories of representation and reception that retain a sense of discrete subjectivity and linear effects. In these approaches, analysis focuses respectively on decoding and deciphering images in terms of their normative and ideological baggage, and, particularly with moving images, on psychological readings. Understanding bodies and popular culture through Deleuzian notions of “becoming“ and “assemblage“ opens possibilities for feminist researchers to consider the ways in which bodies are not separate from images but are, rather, becomings that are known, felt, materialized and mobilized with/through images (Coleman 2008a, 2008b, 2008c, 2009, 2011; Ringrose and Coleman 2013). We tease out the implications of this new approach to media affects through three memories of girls' engagements with media images, reconceived as moments of embodied being within affective flows of popular culture that might momentarily extend upon ways of being and doing girlhood.

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Objet A(ffect) and Che(www) Vuoi

The Fleshy Horror of the Unknowable Other in Spring and Honeymoon

Dewey Musante

Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon (2014) and Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Spring (2015) initially seem like two horror films birthed in the spirit of classical psychoanalytic film criticism. They deal with a monstrous female, a fearful, castrated male, and the “otherness” of sexual relationships. Through a close analysis of each film, however, I suggest in the following that both films “think” through problems of the gendered other, sexual politics, and cinematic affect outside the bounds of contemporary psychoanalytic or affect theory. By suggesting and analyzing two neologisms that blend the insights of psychoanalytic and affective film theory—objet a(ffect) and che(www) vuoi—I argue that both films not only complicate typical readings of horror films “about” gender and sex, but that each film performs its own type of philosophical thought about gender and “otherness” through its very form and content.

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On Photography, History, and Affect

Re-Narrating the Political Life of a Laotian Subject

Panivong Norindr

This essay considers the role of personal, affective history in shaping historiography, and more precisely, a post-colonial history of Laos. Relying on a variety of sources, official and family photographs, US diplomatic documents, telegrams and personal notes, and against the backdrop of multiple losses, this article problematizes the questions of biography and the complex links between the personal and the "historical" by narrating my father's professional trajectory over three decades as a civil servant and career diplomat. Pheng Norindr represented Laos at the 1962 Geneva Conference and became the Laotian envoy to the United Stated during the Vietnam War. His entanglement with French colonialism and Cold War politics offers a point of entry into a Laotian historiography that is critical of a monolithic Western history of Laos.

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Toward a Model of Distributed Affectivity for Cinematic Ethics

Ethical Experience, Trauma, and History

Philip Martin

Many contemporary applications of theories of affect to cinematic ethical experience focus on its consequences for empathy and moral allegiance. Such approaches have made advances in bridging phenomenological and cognitivist approaches to film-philosophy, but miss the importance of complex affects that problematize empathy and moral judgment. For example, the rendering of trauma in Aimless Bullet (Hyun-mok Yu, 1961) involves aesthetic shifts that reframe its depiction of postwar experience and build a complex emotional picture of sociopolitical conditions that affect individual and community life. In this article, I argue that to understand the ethical significance of complex cinematic emotion we can develop an account of how affective-aesthetic affordances establish distributed spaces for dynamic affective engagement. To do this, I draw upon theories of scaffolded mind, classical Indian rasa aesthetics, and phenomenological aesthetics. This hybrid account will allow us to articulate the ways that film can help us comprehend the ethical significance of complex affective situations.

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Carl Plantinga

The stories we tell each other, or present via mass media, are important components of the cultural ecology of a place and time. This article argues that 300 (2007), directed by Zach Snyder and based on a comic book series both written and illustrated by Frank Miller, evinces what can legitimately be called a “fascist aesthetic” that depends in large part on the moods and emotions the screen story both represents and elicits. While many other commentators have charged this film with incipient fascism, this article both deepens and expands on the claim by showing how the film’s elicitation of affect contributes to this aesthetic. The article argues that the affects represented and elicited in 300, when taken in conjunction with and in relation to the ideology they support, constitute what can be called “fascist affect.”

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Christiaan Beyers

In the context of transitional justice, how does the reinvented state come to be assumed as a social fact? South African land restitution interpellates victims of apartheid- and colonial-era forced removals as claimants, moral and legal subjects of a virtuous 'new' state. In the emotional narratives of loss and suffering called forth in land claim forms, the state is addressed as a subject capable of moral engagement. Claim forms also 'capture' affects related to the event of forced removals as an unstable political resource. However, within an ultimately legal and bureaucratic process, the desire for recognition is typically not reciprocated. Moreover, material settlements are indefinitely delayed due to political and institutional complications. The resulting disillusionment is counterweighed by persistent aspirations for state redress.

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Affective Solidarities?

Participating in and Witnessing Fair Trade and Women’s Empowerment in Transnational Communities of Practice

Dabarati Sen

The popularity of fair trade products has engendered new possibilities for consumer citizens in the global North to demonstrate solidarity with producers in the global South. Fair trade enthusiasts not only buy labelled products as an act of solidarity with producers in Darjeeling’s tea plantations; but also extend their affective solidarity by voluntarily visiting certified production sites to witness how fair trade affects workers’ livelihoods. Fair trade as transnational praxis has inadvertently pushed justice seeking and delivery to a non-state sphere that is not accountable to the workers in terms of citizenship rights; however, it must address the bargaining power of producers since wages and benefits are baseline determinants of quality of life. Fair trade-engendered solidarity practices erase the complex history of workers’ struggle with the state and established systems of power through collective bargaining. These acts in turn produce new kinds of transnational praxis affecting the plantation public sphere.

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Alienation and Affectivity

Beauvoir, Sartre and Levinas on the Ageing Body

Kathleen Lennon and Anthony Wilde

In this article, we explore Beauvoir’s account of what she claims is an alienated relation to our ageing bodies. This body can inhibit an active engagement with the world, which marks our humanity. Her claims rest on the binary between the body-for-itself and the body-in-itself. She shares this binary with Sartre, but a perceptive phenomenology of the affective body can also be found, which works against this binary and allows her thought to be brought into conversation with Levinas. For Levinas, the susceptibility of the body is constitutive of our subjectivity, rather than a source of alienation. If we develop Beauvoir’s thought in the direction of his, an ontological structure is suggested, distinct from Sartre – a structure which makes room for her pervasive attention to affectivity.

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The politics of affect

Perspectives on the rise of the far-right and right-wing populism in the West

Sindre Bangstad, Bjørn Enge Bertelsen and Heiko Henkel

This article is based on the transcript of a roundtable on the rise of the far-right and right-wing populism held at the AAA Annual Meeting in 2017. The contributors explore this rise in the context of the role of affect in politics, rising socio-economic inequalities, racism and neoliberalism, and with reference to their own ethnographic research on these phenomena in Germany, Poland, Italy, France, the UK and Hungary.

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Recognition and Knowledge

Mapping the Promises and Seductions of Successful Female Futures

Stephanie D. McCall

Today's girls have become spectacles of modern progress and the representation of social desires for success. What has been remarkably unclear in this imagination, visualization, representation, and investment of modern girlhood is what knowledge and what attachments mobilize girls towards their desires for success. In this article I will examine school knowledge and the seduction of rationality and certainty about female futures. I trace some of the effects and affects of curricular knowledge. I examine how girls move ambivalently towards objects of desire, like prestigious colleges, through their desire for recognition, difference, and being exceptional. Using qualitative data collected in a private all-girls school, in this article I bring together feminist poststructuralist theory, curriculum theory, and girlhood studies to attend to affective intensities of spiciness, happiness, and shame and analyze how these disrupt the visualizations of the girls' seemingly unambiguous notions of female success.