The Affective Turn

Theorizing the Social

The Affective Turn

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: Published: July 2007

Cultural Studies > Affect Theory, Sociology > Social Theory

“The innovative essays in this volume . . . demonstrat[e] the potential of the perspective of the affects in a wide range of fields and with a variety of methodological approaches. Some of the essays . . . use fieldwork to investigate the functions of affects—among organized sex workers, health care workers, and in the modeling industry. Others employ the discourses of microbiology, thermodynamics, information sciences, and cinema studies to rethink the body and the affects in terms of technology. Still others explore the affects of trauma in the context of immigration and war. And throughout all the essays run serious theoretical reflections on the powers of the affects and the political possibilities they pose for research and practice.”—Michael Hardt, from the foreword

In the mid-1990s, scholars turned their attention toward the ways that ongoing political, economic, and cultural transformations were changing the realm of the social, specifically that aspect of it described by the notion of affect: pre-individual bodily forces, linked to autonomic responses, which augment or diminish a body’s capacity to act or engage with others. This “affective turn” and the new configurations of bodies, technology, and matter that it reveals, is the subject of this collection of essays. Scholars based in sociology, cultural studies, science studies, and women’s studies illuminate the movement in thought from a psychoanalytically informed criticism of subject identity, representation, and trauma to an engagement with information and affect; from a privileging of the organic body to an exploration of nonorganic life; and from the presumption of equilibrium-seeking closed systems to an engagement with the complexity of open systems under far-from-equilibrium conditions. Taken together, these essays suggest that attending to the affective turn is necessary to theorizing the social.

Contributors. Jamie “Skye” Bianco, Grace M. Cho, Patricia Ticineto Clough, Melissa Ditmore, Ariel Ducey, Deborah Gambs, Karen Wendy Gilbert, Greg Goldberg, Jean Halley, Hosu Kim, David Staples, Craig Willse , Elizabeth Wissinger , Jonathan R. Wynn


Affective Turn does a better job of introducing readers to the central issues surrounding the study of affect in the humanities and social sciences than any single work.” — Jeff Pruchnic, Criticism

The Affective Turn, to its credit, refuses any generic disciplinary location. It will inspire and exasperate readers across the humanities and social sciences. It is a brave, uncompromising, flawed, and sometimes quite beautiful book.” — William Mazzarella, American Journal of Sociology

“[T]he essays in Clough’s edited volume are creative and literary works firmly situated within critical political economy, advancing tender and nuanced analyses of some of the most devastating and difficult contemporary transcultural and geopolitical manifestations of late capitalism.” — Melissa Autumn White, TOPIA

“I found The Affective Turn to be an inventive contribution to this burgeoning field.” — Susan E. Cook, Women's Studies

“Overall, The Affective Turn represents a convincing effort to rethink power in light of both contemporary global shifts in social and economic organizations as well as powerful theoretical shifts in the social sciences and humanities.” — Aaron D. Chandler, Symploke

“Overall, this is a useful collection of essays. . . . The contributors provide useful, sustained consideration of some of the major voices that have shaped our new understanding of science, society, matter, body, and affect. For anyone working in the now emerging field of affect or emotion studies, this will be a key resource, especially through its rich, interdisciplinary bibliography, which combines theory, philosophy, and science.” — Hyoejin Yoon, College Literature

“This is what critical theory is supposed to do.” — Norman K. Denzin, Contemporary Sociology

“This volume attempts to move beyond a philosophy of affect to a social science of the affects. By attending to the simultaneous engagement of the body and the intellectual, and the reciprocity between both, our understanding of the social is enhanced by the affective turn in much the same way as the linguistic turn and the postmodern turn have done previously. . . . I highly recommend the opening essay to those wishing to frame the affective turn in their own work.” — Scott Grills, Canadian Journal of Sociology

“Framed by Patricia Ticineto Clough’s stunning essay, this collection weaves together many of the most profound changes that have characterized not only critical scholarship in the human sciences for the last thirty-five years or so but the social, political, and economic changes that describe the world as ‘glocal’—the entwined and so-fast linking of the stubborn and material ‘hereness’ of life as lived and breathed, on the one hand, and an array of forces and practices spanning place and time marked by terms such as technoscience, telecommunications, flexible accumulation, and molecularization, on the other.” — Joseph Schneider, author of Donna Haraway: Live Theory

“From the trauma of cultural displacement to the political economy of affective labor, the essays brought together here examine the many facets of affect, focusing on its consequences for theories of the social and well-informed by recent rethinkings of power. Expertly framed by Patricia Clough’s introduction, the volume presents a diversity of voices engaged in a shared exploration of the conceptual landscape stretching beyond the bend of ‘the affective turn.’” — Brian Massumi, author of Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Patricia Ticineto Clough is Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at the Graduate Center and Queens College of the City University of New York. She is the author of Autoaffection: Unconscious Thought in the Age of Teletechnology; The End(s) of Ethnography: From Realism to Social Criticism; and Feminist Thought: Desire, Power and Academic Discourse.

Jean Halley is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Wagner College in New York City. She is the author of The Boundaries of Touch: Social Power, Parenting, and Adult-Child Intimacy (forthcoming).

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Foreword: What Affects Are Good For / Michael Hardt ix

Introduction / Patricia Ticineto Clough 1

The Parched Tongue / Hosu Kim 34

Techno-Cinema: Image Matters in the Affective Unfoldings of Analog Cinema and New Media / Jamie “Skye” Bianco 47

Slowness: Notes toward an Economy of Differencial Rates of Being / Karen Wendy Gilbert 77

Myocellular Transduction: When My Cells Trained My Body-Mind / Deborah Gambs 106

Women’s Work and the Ambivalent Gift of Entropy / David Staples 119

Voices from the Teum: Synesthetic Trauma and the Ghosts of the Korean Diaspora / Grace M. Cho 151

In Calcutta, Sex Workers Organize / Melissa Ditmor 170

More Than a Job: Meaning, Affect, and Training Health Care Workers / Ariel Ducey 187

Haunting Orpheus: Problems of Space and Time in the Desert / Jonathan R. Wynn 209

Always on Display: Affective Production in the Modeling Industry / Elizabeth Wissinger 231

The Wire / Jean Halley 261

Losses and Returns: The Soldier in Trauma / Greg Goldberg and Craig Willse 264

Bibliography 287

Contributors 303

Index 305
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3925-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3911-3
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