Skip to Content

Forms of (Dis)Affection

«Back To Seminars

Organizer: Maïté Marciano

Contact the Seminar Organizers

In the field of affect theory, recent scholarship has begun to address what one might consider a blind spot: namely the absence, wavering, suppression, or suspension of affects and emotions. Insensibility, detachment, apathy, neutrality, indifference, impassivity, under-performativity, boredom, flat affects create a cluster of disaffections that bring forth new avenues of research. These instances of affective withdrawal provide opportunities for rethinking this field and bring to light presuppositions about our conception of affects and emotions and their connections to theories of subjectivity. A glimpse at current scholarship offers a rich array of strategies for examining these forms of affect and emotion. In her book, Failures of Feelings: Insensibility and the Novel, Wendy Anne Lee argues for the significance of unfeeling in British novels as it leads to the Bartleby problem. Looking at our current moment, Lauren Berlant reveals "structures of unfeeling" to describe the “register of underperformed emotional style.” Bernard Stiegler emphasizes disaffection as a result of our industrialized capitalist societies and their libidinal diseconomies, whereas Mark Kingwell analyzes boredom in our "swiping" social media era. On the other hand, building from neuroscience, Catherine Malabou explores disaffection as one of the major traits of the “new wounded” in relation to her theory of trauma. These different descriptions and approaches each entail specific methods and open new questions that the seminar seeks to explore.    What methodologies can be used when addressing affect characterized by their phenomenological absence? What understanding of subjectivity is challenged when inquiring about the absence of affect? What happens to language and literary forms when affect and emotions are withdrawn, and how does this translate across cultures? How does the “waning of affect” expand beyond postmodernism and what does it mean to assign an emotion to a particular historical context? How can we account for gender, blackness, and the "unthinkability of black affect" in relation to these disaffections? Finally, what political and ethical issues are at stake with what could appear as affective forms of disengagement?    This seminar seeks to bring together scholars from a wide range of disciplines to foster dialogue around the methodologies, histories, ontologies, aesthetics, and underpinnings of this cluster of affects and emotions. It welcomes proposals on how these disaffections challenge questions of subjectivity, theories of affect and emotion, and ways of reading for affect and emotions. This seminar also welcomes proposals that explore these clusters of disaffection in literary, artistic, and cinematic representations and across historical periods, languages, and cultures—Western and non-Western.  

«Back To Seminars