Monday, May 19, 2014

Books are from Mars, Movies are from Venus: Anthropological Difference in Under the Skin (the book and movie)

A few weeks ago I saw the film Under the Skin, a film that was better than I expected. The film unnerved me in a way that made it difficult to forget. The film is minimalist in dialogue, evocative in its use of images, and ambivalent in its overall meaning. Its basic plot concerns what is ostensibly an alien in human form (played by Scarlett Johansson), who travels around the Scottish countryside picking up men and…eating them? It really is unclear in all of the details of this alien on earth, there is no voiceover exposition, no scientist who figures it all out, just a series of scenes of uneasy seduction.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Affective Economy: Producing and Consuming Affects in Deleuze and Guattari

Erasmus University Rotterdam

The thought of Gilles Deleuze (and Félix Guattari) bears on ambiguous relation with respect to the “affective turn” in social and political thought that it supposedly helped initiate. This ambiguity touches on the very role and meaning of affects. From Deleuze’s writings on Nietzsche and Spinoza through the collaborations of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Deleuze and Guattari insist on the central role of the affects, joy, sadness, fear, and hope, as structuring individual and collective life. In that sense, Deleuze and Guattari are rightfully hailed as central figures in a turn towards affect. However, if, as some argue, the “affective turn” is a turn towards the lived over the structural and the intimate over the public, then Deleuze and Guattari’s thought has a much more complex relation to affects. The broader polemical target of Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, beyond the specific polemics with psychoanalysis, is any explanatory theory that would reduce social relations to expressions of individual passions and desires. Deleuze and Guattari’s claim that there is only “the desire and the social, and nothing else” is oriented against such individualistic accounts of subjectivity. Moreover, Deleuze and Guattari define capitalism as a socius that it reproduces itself in and through the encounter of abstract quantities of money and labor power, and as such is  is indifferent to the beliefs, feelings, and meaning that we attach to it. Thus, if affect is central to Deleuze and Guattari’s thought it is necessary to add the caveats that affect must be thought of as anti-individualistic, as social rather than intimate, and as impersonal, reflecting the abstractions that dominant life.