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Felt Antagonisms: On Affect and Affirmation

Thursday Lecture Series

dateFebruary 3, 2022 timeThursday, 12:15pm EST locationVirtual Event
  • 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.

Them by Rashid Johnson, large, black, person-shaped spill against mirrored tile

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.

This event will not be recorded at the request of the presenter.

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