Capacious: Affect Inquiry/Making Space Conference: August 8 to 11, 2018.
Millersville University’s Ware Center
Stream 15 (please note change of title for S15)
Call for 250-word paper abstracts can now be submitted to
The final deadline for submissions is Thursday, March 15, 2018.
Tony D. Sampson
For the most part affect theory has enthusiastically welcomed the neurosciences into its fold. Through the work of Libet (1985), Damasio (1995), and LeDoux (2003), for example, affect theorists have challenged mainstream anthropocentricism in the humanities, upsetting the stability of a model of human cognition previously assumed to hold sway over the perceptible world. As follows, the brain sciences have helped to support an alternative perspective in which humans arrive late to consciousness since their brains take time to build a cognitive reaction. Immediate experience of consciousness is, as such, a backdated illusion and just one of many responses to the dynamics of the exteriority of experience. As Gibbs (2010) argues, there can be no “pure cognition… uncontaminated by the richness of sensate experience, including affective experience” (p. 200). Indeed, according to affect theory, thinking is not at all limited to the thought inside the brain. On one hand, somatic markers act as a kind of corporeal thinking in which emotion becomes a capture of affect in consciousness. On the other, a new materialist affect theory extends the image of thought to a wider remit of incorporeal sense making including nonhumans, self-organizing matter, assemblages and events. The analytical focus has thus shifted away from conventional cognitive processes (perception, memory, representation) to the significance of such things as imperceptibility (Grosz, 2003), precognition and nonrepresentation (Thrift, 2007), premediation (Grusin, 2010), processual incorporeality (Gregg and Seigworth, 2010) and discognition (Shaviro, 2015).
There has, nevertheless, been an inevitable backlash against affect theory’s cosying up to the brain sciences. Wetherall (2012), for example, argues that Thrift and Massumi take the wrong message from neuroscience (p. 61). Her work does not simply reject neuroscience, but instead uses it to (re)personalize affect and renegotiate it alongside discourse, representation and meaning. Similarly, Hayles (2017) has recently drawn on the same neuroscientific resources as affect theory (e.g. Damasio, Libet), but argues against the Spinoza-Deleuzian overtures of new materialism and returns the brain (and its fellow cognizers) to the cognitive theoretical frame.
The neuroaffect stream welcomes provocative, inventive and speculative interventions that engage with the wide-ranging influence of the neurosciences on affect theory and related areas. It asks for submissions that engage with neuro-concepts of affect, such as the nonconscious, somatic markers, lags, mirror neurons, neuro-typicality, assemblage brains, technological nonconscious and discognition, while also addressing the numerous challenges and reinventions of affect stemming from various interventions in the humanities and social sciences.
Possible topics for the stream are not limited to the following neuros:
Neuroaffect, somatic markers, lags, mirror neurons, neuro-typicality, cognition, noncognition, discognition, consciousness, nonconsciousness, technological nonconscious, brains, microbrains, assemblage brains, temporality and space, locationism, neuroevents, neuropolitics, neuropopulism, neuro-dystopia/utopia, neurocapitalism, neuromedia, ontology, nonhumans, Anthropocene, contagion, organic and inorganic matter, assemblages, antilocationism, neurophilosophy, neurophenomenology, neuroprocess philosophy, neurocomputing, neural nets, brain-computer interfaces, neurofiction, brain-art, neuroaesthetics, neurobleedin’ everything…
Damasio, A. (1995). Descartes’ error: emotion, reason, and the human brain. New York: Penguin.
Damasio, A. (2000). The feeling of what happens: body, emotion, and the making of consciousness. London: Vintage.
Gibbs, A. (2010). After affect sympathy, Synchrony, and mimetic communication. In Gregg, M. & Seigworth, G. J. (Eds.), The affective theory reader (pp. 186-205). Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Gregg, M. & Seigworth, G. J. (2010). The affective theory reader. Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Grosz, E. (2002). A politics of imperceptibility: A response to ‘anti-racism, multiculturalism and the ethics of identification’ Philosophy and Social Criticism. 28 (4) pp. 463-472.
Grusin, R. (2010). Premediation: affect and mediality after 9/11. New York, London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Hayles, K. N. (2006). Traumas in code. Critical Inquiry 33(1), 136-157.
Hayles, K. N. (2017). Unthought: the power of the cognitive nonconscious. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
Karppi, T. Kahkonen, L. & Mannevuo, M. (Eds.) (2016). Affective capitalism. Ephemera (16)4 Ephemera.
LeDoux, J. (2003). The synaptic self: how our brains become who we are. New York: Penguin Books.
Libet, B. (1985). Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action. Behavioral Brain Sciences. (8)5, 29–566.
Rolls, E. T. (2012). Neuroculture: on the implications of brain science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Shaviro, S. (2015). Discognition. New York: Repeater Books.
Sampson, T. D. (2016). The Assemblage brain: sense making in neuroculture. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.
Thrift, N. (2004). Remembering the technological unconscious by foregrounding knowledges of position. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 22(1), 175-190.
Thrift, N. (2007). Non-Representational theory: space, politics, affect. New York, London: Routledge.
Wetheral, M. (2012). Affect and emotion: a new social science understanding. London: Sage.