Felt Antagonisms: On Affect and Affirmation

Thursday Lecture Series

November 11, 2021 Thursday, 12:15pm EST The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University Virtual Event

This event has been postponed at the request of the organizers and participants, in solidarity with the ongoing Student Workers of Columbia (SWC) strike at Columbia University. We hope to set a new date in the coming weeks.

  • This event will take place in person at the Heyman Center and virtually over Zoom. We ask that EVERYONE REGISTER VIA ZOOM, even those who plan to attend in person. Please read event description for further details.

  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
  • Each TLS event will have its own Zoom registration. If you wish to attend all events, please register for each lecture individually.

While it is nearly impossible to neatly summarize or sufficiently condense affect into one strain or trend due to its (anti-)foundational multiplicity and resistance to categorization, it can be said that the disparate tendencies, orientations, and dispositions which comprise the discursive terrain of “affect theory” cohere around a commitment to affirmation. Considering the grammars and concepts that comprise affect theory’s various means of articulation, one notices a trend—affect affirms life, creation, mobility, capacity, and—in the broadest of terms—existence. This affirmationist impulse is always in opposition to a negative mode of theorization characterized by stasis and (en)closure, and has a number of implications for the ethico-political ramifications of affect (i.e., to what and to whom affect can ‘speak’). This talk considers the stakes of the affirmative drive of affect (theory), exploring the relation, and apparent contradiction, between affect theory as a resolutely affirmationist discourse and its position as what Eugenie Brinkema terms “the negative ontology of the humanities,” that which is invoked to address any seeming absence or unthought possibility within humanistic inquiry. I argue that the insistent affirmationist drive of affect and its foreclosure of the negative is mirrored by and intertwined with the structuring absence of Blackness within its precincts. Identifying Blackness as the figure which affirmationist theory constructs itself against, this talk considers what might be gleaned from a fidelity to the antagonistic negativity which Blackness brings to bear on the World.

Attendance at SOF/Heyman events will follow Columbia-issued guidelines as they continue to develop. Given the current recommendations, we plan to allow in-person attendance for COLUMBIA AFFILIATES who have conformed with the on-campus guidelines. For everyone else, we're planning to livestream this event, allowing for virtual attendance.

This event also will be recorded. By being electronically present, you consent to the SOF/Heyman using such video for promotional purposes.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.