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.

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: Full academic profile:
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