Affective Contagion: Social Practices and the Problem of the Uncanny (1 of 5)

Affect and Emotion

Wetherell's Affect and Emotion

The Rubbishing of Discourse…

Margaret Wetherell’s new book Affect and Emotion: a New Social Science Understanding (Sage) arrived on my desk last week. Although it covers similar territory to Virality, namely affective contagion, it moves in a very different direction. It does so by forwarding a series of contentious problems facing nonrepresentational theory which require some attention here. Indeed, nonrepresentational theorists should perhaps take heed of the efforts of some social scientists intent on forcing the entire social through the lenses of the representational paradigm. They are no longer simply content to dismiss the claims of nonrepresentational theory as an incomprehensible and misguided fascination with the uncanny, but look to further impose the tools of representation on subrepresentational forces. In effect, what Wetherell attempts to do is wrestle affective contagion back from the likes of Brennan and Thrift, trying to force it into a representational space. Her distain for nonrepresentational theorists is abundantly clear. Her argument is indeed decisively aimed at what she sees as their “rubbishing of discourse.” This feels like payback time.

Affect and Emotion argues that for many people working in cultural studies, including Clough, Massumi, Sedgwick and Thrift, affect is interesting only because it is “not discourse” (p. 19). Massumi, for example, “draws a thick line between bodily movements or forces and social sense making.” Contrary to such Deleuzian flights of fantasy, it seems, human affect is rather “inextricably linked,” Wetherell claims, to meaning-making, the semiotic and the discursive. For Wetherell these are the guiding forces of affect.

About Virality

Tony D. Sampson is Reader in Digital Culture and Communications at the University of East London. He has a PhD in social-cultural-digital contagion theory from the Sociology Department at the University of Essex. He is a former art student who re-entered higher education in the UK as a mature student in the mid-1990s after a long stint as a gigging musician. His career in education has moved through various disciplines and departments, including a maths and computing faculty, sociology department and school of digital media and design 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), Affect and Social Media (Rowman and Littlefield, July 2018) and The Sleepwalker's Guide to Social Media (due 2020 with Polity Press). Tony is the organizer and host of the Affect and Social Media conferences in the UK (see archive on this blog). As a co-founder and co-director of the public engagement initiatives, Club Critical Theory (CCT) and the Cultural Engine Research Group (CERG), Tony has been project lead on a number of funded projects that bring impactful critical theories into the community and local political sphere to approach. These activities have included large conferences, symposia and informal lectures/workshops in pubs and community centres, co-organized with community groups and local authorities. Tony occasionally blogs at: https://viralcontagion.wordpress.com/ Full academic profile: https://www.uel.ac.uk/Staff/s/tony-sampson
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2 Responses to Affective Contagion: Social Practices and the Problem of the Uncanny (1 of 5)

  1. Pingback: New guide to the field of emotion studies « Serendipities

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