AFFECT WTF ➜ WTF AFFECT: FROM EVENT TO EPISODE…
August 14, 2016
In October 2015, there was this event-thing of an international conference Affect Theory: Worldings/Tensions/Futures at Millersville University in Lancaster, Pennsylvania: eighteen plenary speakers, nineteen multi-disciplinary conference panel streams, over a dozen ‘wreck-the-format’ interventions: workshops, artistic installations, and performative pieces. Nearly 700 conference submissions came in from all over the world: narrowed down to 223 presenters from 19 different countries – US, UK, Canada, Egypt, Serbia, Denmark, Australia, Switzerland, Portugal, the Netherlands, South Africa, Japan, Ecuador, New Zealand, Spain, Finland, Brazil, Sweden and Israel – with an estimated 380+ total conference attendees (faculty, independent researchers, graduate and undergraduate students) across three and a half days (often ending post-11 pm). In all of the best ways, #AffectWTF was exhilarating and exhausting.
Now we want to turn the event-thing of a conference into an episodic-thing of a website: an affect studies online forum, WTF Affect. Four parts follow. Skip through (or past) any/all of them as you wish:
i. A personal reflection on the conference-event
ii. An overview of the contents of this initial episode of the WTF Affect forum
iii. An intro that discusses why “WTF” Affect
iv. And… where we go from here
i. Reflections on Affect WTF
While this website is mostly about looking forward (the ‘F’ in WTF is for ‘futures’ after all!), I do wish to offer a couple of fast reflections about the 2015 Affect WTF conference before laying out the modest aims for this webby gathering-place for all things affect.
First, a pre-post-conference premonition. I had a vivid dream in the week or two before the conference began, and, in the dream, we were cutting the celebratory cake on the conference’s last night. I was asking around “How did it go?” “Was it good?” Genuine questions because I was trying very hard to remember anything that had happened and I was coming up blank (hardly surprising since the conference had not happened yet). Meanwhile the crowd of conference attendees was growing restless, mutinous, grumbly… somehow it had all gone wrong, terribly awfully wrong. The conference was more than a little lame. Not only had I missed my own conference: it’d sucked. I recall too in the dream how Brian Massumi ultimately came to my defense; waving the din down with one hand (holding cake in the other), he calmly but forcefully told those assembled that I’d done my best. He said, really I had. It was so gallant but I still felt deflated.
Second, a confession. As it turns out I did miss the majority of the conference. Yeah sure I was present, but as Heather Love (one of the conference’s three core committee members, alongside Lisa Blackman and me) said to me on day #1: the host never really gets to enjoy their own party. And, although the conference – from earliest pre-planning to the final van drop-off back at the Harrisburg airport – was joyful through-and-through (really, ask around), I was regularly a blur of motion. Indeed, here I am blurring past Erin Manning and Brian Massumi just as their closing night’s plenary session (with Steven Shaviro) was about to get underway.
Photo credit: Michael Lechuga
Thankfully, this conference nightmare was never realized. #AffectWTF hummed along under its own warm-and-fuzzy infectious momentum: generative, open, and suffused with honest-to-goodness cross-disciplinary intersections around ideas and affects and angles and each other, finding ever more room for even more feeling. The single word I keep coming back to, now, as descriptor is ‘capacious.’ Perhaps there is no better term for describing how a gathering around the whole matter of ‘affect’ should – if the pieces fall into place – come to feel. Anyway, at the close of the final late night plenary session, folks didn’t want to leave – I distinctly remember motioning everyone toward the exits as the midnight hour rapidly approached, saying over and over “I love you all. Now get the hell out of here.” And suddenly that was that. But, like the best dreams, a quite palpable and energizing afterglow lingers still months later.
So, back to our present aim here: in the capacious spirit of the event-thing that was Affect WTF, let’s see if we can make WTF Affect something episodic. That is, we would love this to become an online venue for all things affect, a place that can gradually accrue intensities and rhythms, that hangs loose and avoids slipping into any sort of orthodoxy, that updates frequently but not on any kind of regular schedule, that provides a place for contagious intersections and juxtapositions of methods & modes & moods, that curates resources (like forthcoming books, conference CFPs, etc) and connects up a worldwide network of researchers (particularly graduate students!) engaging with the study of affect across innumerable trajectories, tensions, and tendings, that allows itself to be perpetually reshaped by worldings underway and those yet-to-come.
ii. The contents of this first ‘episode’
While I may have ‘missed’ the conference as it was happening, the brilliant plenary panel talks were all recorded (I have had the distinct pleasure of watching them over and over) and, with a few exceptions, you can now see most of them here on the site – under the AUDIO/VIDEO tab,’ click VIDEOS (see also under the CONFERENCE tab).
Here is the order in which these talks transpired at the conference:
WTF Affect: Conference Welcome
Queer Adventures in Affect Studies: Feeling the Future
Small Change: The Politics of the Micro
Disaffection & Its Aftermath: How a New Conjuncture Feels
Lauren Berlant and Katie Stewart
Affective News Streams and (soft) Structures of Feeling
The Thing Self
Counterproductive: Work’s Intimacy After the Job
Natasha Dow Schüll
Wearable Technologies & the Design of Self-Care
Slime Mold Metaphysics
Carrying the Feeling
In addition, two of the conference plenary talks are available in print form. Below, you will find links to a version of Jasbir Puar’s talk (published in the online journal Borderlands) and to Jason Read’s talk (unfortunately Jason’s talk was our one botched video recording) at his blog Unemployed Negativity below:
The ‘Right’ to Maim: Disablement and Inhumanist Biopolitics in Palestine
Affective Reproduction: Thinking Transindividuality in an Age of Individualism
The text linking the plenary videos comes from Wendy Truran. Soon after the conference, Wendy, a PhD student at University of Illinois, wrote up a terrifically insightful blog-post at Kritik (the blog of the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at U of I) focused on particular themes that she heard running through the plenaries, re-imagining their sequencing and implicit conversations. Wendy has allowed us to adapt her words and place them with the videos in order to provide a bit more context to these talks and how they gave form and texture to the conference’s unfolding.
WRITING SPACE (interviews) – under the TEXT tab. These interviews are concerned with the scene and deployment of the space of writing. In 2002 (!), I taught a summer course on cultural studies and writing technique and, with my students, we interviewed several academics about their research and writing practices.
Three of the interviews (from the time-period) are included here (with minor edits/updates in a couple of cases): 1. Brian Massumi
2. Lawrence Grossberg
Roughly the same set of interview questions now have responses from: 4. Erin Manning
5. Steve Shaviro
6. Zizi Papacharissi
7. Jason Read
8. Donovan Schaefer
9. Jenny Rice
. Anyone who gives careful consideration to the manner and configuration of the ‘space’ (at all kinds of levels) of their writing should find these interview-answers enlightening, perhaps reassuring, and quite often motivational.
ESSAYS and EXCERPTS – also under the TEXT tab – is the place to find occasional unpublished and forthcoming writings. Here, in this episode, we have two vividly evocative short pieces by Ben Highmore
(‘A Tiny Library’ and ‘Flowers’), and a preview chapter ‘Writing Trauma
’ – an extract that pairs well with the interviews on the practice of writing and the role of affect – from Michael Richardson’s new book Gestures of Testimony (Bloomsbury, 2016). Thanks to Michael and his publisher Bloomsbury for granting permission to share this excerpt.
SOUNDS (under the AUDIO/VIDEO tab) – Meera Atkinson is a Sydney-based writer, vocalist, scholar and co-editor (with Michael Richardson) of Traumatic Affect, a volume of essays exploring the nexus of trauma and affect. 'Soul
' is a poetry music track by Theories of Everything, a duo Meera founded with her husband Gregory Atkinson. It comes from their 2011 album “Tender Mess.” This song captures affect as it arises, sliding into and around the space-times of the urban commute: subtle and slippery, insisting in ways ever-present but often barely noticed. (By the way, Meera and Michael have posted the full text pdf of their Traumatic Affect book on their academia.edu pages.)
JUXTAPOSITIONS (under the AUDIO/VIDEO tab) – we wanted to put artists and affect theorists (you can decide which is which) into conversation to see what might result. As it turns out, the resulting mash-ups can be pretty stirring and provocative. Check out what transpires in the in-between of their juxtapositions and productive intersections:
Kay Gordon “Neurons/Deterritorializing” + Tony Sampson “The Assemblage Brain: Sense Making in Neuroculture”
Maya Pindyck “Becoming-Animal” + Donovan Schaefer “Affect Theory is an Animalism”
PEOPLE tab: click this link
and you will see graduate/recent post-grad student bios, along with a photo (representative or non-), and usually a description/excerpt from their latest work on and around affect. Quite often, the most invigorating and insightful academic work within any area of study can to be found among grad students. There are about ten students in this section right now, but we encourage more and more submissions. If you are a graduate student researching and writing about affect, drop us a line at email@example.com
and get yourself onto this directory!
DREAMS (under the TEXT tab) is one example of the wreck-the-format (WTF) presentations or evocations that were part of the conference. Gil Rodman compiled all of my dream-related status updates from Facebook (120+, across 8 years) and typed each onto a notecard
. Carrying the stack of cards and wearing a sandwich board that declared he would share my dreams with anyone who asked, Gil dispensed random dream anecdotes of mine across the 3+days of the conference. Yeah, for me, it was kind of unsettling and more than a bit weird (see also the video of my conference opening remarks ‘wrecked’ by Gil’s interruption). Still a favorite conference memory of mine comes from the morning of day #2 -- Gil and I were idly chatting in the lobby when Brian Massumi (who had a rough night of sleep) approached to say “I am going to need two of Greg’s dreams, please.” Slinking away quickly, I will confess to an odd glee knowing that Brian was now entering my dreams from an angle to which I was wholly unaccustomed.
iii. WTF Affect
WTF Affect?! I mean, really. When I briefly spoke (in my opening conference address) about the role played by the acronym WTF, I noted that, while ‘Worldings / Tensions / Futures’ serves, for me at least, as a nice shorthand description of the current state of affairs in affect studies, it is also, admittedly, intended as a sideways poke in the ribs at the incredulous posturings of affect’s more bullying non-subscribers. C’mon, lighten up! While there must remain elbow-room for healthy critique and skepticism and skirmishes from within and without the study of affect, nearly any rendering of affect is bound to greet overly invested pursuits of the veridicality (and verticality!) of truth-claims with the lateral-ness and relative illegitimacy of what also exceeds – falling both above and below – the thresholds of established truths, of what seeps into and out around the well-marked routes of perfectly common-sensical inquiry.
Here my imagination fastens onto the conference quote left hanging in the air (projected onto the backdrop) at the end of Lisa Blackman’s plenary: Lewis Carroll’s words - “Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Not that accountings of affect are always going to be fun and games and rabbit holes. Indeed, many such accountings find themselves venturing out along a seriously taut line strung over the vital atmospheres of life/nonlife (see, for instance, Jasbir Puar’s “The ‘Right’ to Maim: Disablement and Inhumanist Biopolitics in Palestine”), twisting and turning over the consequential matters of human/inhuman strife. Sometimes the WTF of affect simply means ‘widen truths further.’
Affect is rangy. That’s a given. No surprise then: different disciplines and angles of academic inquiry will take affect (and affects) up in subtle and often dramatically different ways – hooray! Hence, it is not uncommon then that these disciplines and angles will often find themselves engaged in lively, sometimes unexpected, conversations around both traditionally cherished and newly inspired points of consonance and dissonance – more hooray! Crucially, what ‘works’ – or doesn’t work – within, say, one explanatory-exculpatory framework might find experiential-experimental purchase in another framework of inquiry. And, yes, sometimes conflicts arise within the self-same framework (see, for instance, psychology): hello age-old internecine battles over the reach/over-reach and sense of modesty/immodesty conferred upon different criteria for valuing advancements in the humanities and social sciences. Without a doubt though, the very ranginess of affect acts as a substantial source of these intra-, inter- and cross-disciplinary tensions.
Given this, it is worth trying to find ways – when possible – to make these shimmering, perhaps spikey, moments of disciplinary interface into something that is illuminatingly-mutually productive and not talking-past-each-other into a combative void. But having said that, there is sometimes also nothing quite like an invigorating debate around those procedures and processes and problematics that have come to animate and sustain a particular zone of recognizable inquiry: whether a discipline, a field, a practice, etc. The conference-event of #AffectWTF stands as testament to the simple fact that these kinds of encounters and engagements are entirely possible, maybe even invigorating.
The episodic-dream of WTF Affect is that we find a means to carry this spirit onward.
Because one of the truly stirring aspects of the #AffectWTF conference was just how many very different schools of thought (dozens!) found themselves inhabiting the same spaces – conference rooms, large lecture theaters, hotel lobbies, restaurants and bars—for extended periods of time and engaging each other in conversations, sing-alongs, workshops, make-out sessions (seriously: see Shaka McGlotten’s ‘Sensate’ plenary) and daydreams: yet all the while never bothering to entertain even the slightest possibility that the study of affect would somehow serve as totalizing force for the real (or formal) subsumption of each-and-all into one. Ultimately, the point is not to dissolve tensions by imagining that affect study will somehow magically turn into some kind of overarching über-discipline (as if!) or, even more basically, into a single multi-discipline-straddling methodology – because that ain’t happening. Ever. One more hooray!
Perhaps the key role for affect studies when it comes to such relatively pesky issues as disciplinarity is merely this: how might any specifically-angled engagement with ‘affect’ precipitate a re-imagining of the thresholds and continually shifting weight-bearing presuppositions / procedures / objects / relations that give unique texture, shape & rhythm to any discipline’s sense of capaciousness? (Here see: Ben Anderson’s plenary on ‘Neoliberal Affects’ with his witty and harrowing affective reinflection of biographical details from Milton Friedman and the Mont Pelerin Society read back into the discourses of cultural studies and political economy.) How far might a given set of knowledge-practices and theories stretch at their boundaries and yet remain recognizably, albeit elastically, ‘within the true’ of their own singular historically-derived sets of practices and problematics? If affect and, consequently, the study of affect is capacious and rangy (and it is), then those specialized methods/practices & initiating presumptions that characterize any discipline offer a kind of necessary boundedness for the infinities of making-room that help give form(s) to force(s).
For me, this links up too with one of the more puzzling allergic reactions to affect theorizing in recent times; the study of affect is not only perceived, for some, as an unwelcome blurring of certain disciplinary boundaries and procedures but, more so, as an outright rejection or negation of such world-making fundamentals as ‘consciousness,’ ‘intentionality,’ ‘cognitive,’ the ‘discursive,’ the ‘individual,’ the ‘linguistic,’ the ‘social,’ the ‘representational,’ the ‘human,’ the ‘personal’ etc etc – after all, studies of affect have been known to attach a ‘non-‘ and/or a ‘pre-‘ prefix to these terms. With the affixing of the dash (-) of the non- / pre-, some have heard the opening of a gap: a rupture, a tear, a spacing, a kind of chasm. Cognitive here //-sever-// non-cognitive over there. Personal here //-sever-// pre-personal over there. As if grappling with affect is somehow done by way of a magical presumption of purity and un-contamination [“the body now free of the mind!”] or the production of sequence of neatly aligned separations [“slip the bonds of the discursive, join the pre-linguistic, and win a trip to non-intentionality!”].
To the first of these, I will simply note that ‘non-‘ is not ‘anti-‘ and that affect study does not – indeed, cannot – sustain its workings through negation or inversion or exclusion. Suffice it to say, this would violate affect studies’ hard-earned (not necessarily hard-wired) capacities – the always making-room of ‘to be affected’ and ‘to affect’ – for capaciousness: its mode of attention to the ‘more-than,’ the ‘other-than,’ the ‘different-than,’ its attunements to what exceeds and what seeps from the atmospheres and folds of encounters. “As if the whole point of being and thinking is just a catch it in a lie,” as Katie Stewart says in the midst of her delightful to-and-fro plenary address ‘The Hundreds’ with Lauren Berlant (meanwhile Lauren names – in this same dialogue – the central component of affect study: ‘receptivity’). And this seems an apt reply to anyone who hears affect theory as caught up in some manner of performative self-contradiction – “Hey! First, you said ‘non’- and then snuck it in through the back door!” Well, not exactly. Affect study uses ‘non-‘ to show that the back door was never a door at all (back or otherwise). It is an immersive universe; forgo the standard entry points and exits, instead it’s doors (and more than a few windows) all the way around. ‘Non-‘ is not the evacuation of or the vacancy surrounding an existent-something (cognition, intentionality, human, et al) but the saturating/magnetizing circumambience of everything. Think of affect’s ‘non-’ as a way to take note of this excess. Affect study then as excess-tentialism.
‘Pre-‘ is similarly oft-misinterpreted. Before consciousness? Before the individual? Before the social? Etc. On the immediate face of it, these questions seem almost willfully naïve: sort of like shining a flashlight into the darkness that protrudes in front of such more steadily-lit entities. ‘So, you wish then to insert your dim flashlight-findings before the more tried-and-true-and-trusted? And these faint pre-glimmerings will somehow invalidate or overwrite the understandings that we’ve gleaned about the workings of consciousness, the rights of the individual, the power of the social?’ Admittedly, I am being over-dramatic here when actually the role of ‘pre-‘ in the study of affect is rather low-key and modest (in much the same way that Nietzsche said that we should recall consciousness to its necessary modesty). Questions – like those posed at the head of this paragraph – presume that we know well-enough in advance what consciousness, the individual, the social (and more) already encompass; they assume that, when ‘pre-‘ is added, it indicates something that applies before the coming-into-coherence of the individual, the social, the cognitive, the discursive. But the case is slightly other than this. ‘Pre-‘ points to the co-constitutive nature of particular things such as consciousness, the individual, the discursive [etc] along with what is supposed to fall out or recede into the background as the context / conditions of emergence. ‘Pre-‘ signals the co-participation of a particular surfacing effect (like ‘consciousness’) and the wider fielding of its production (see Erin Manning’s plenary ‘Carrying the Feeling’). Perhaps it is not so curious then, when Brian Massumi is asked in his ‘writing space’ interview on this website: Is there anything before affect? He replies: “There is everything before affect: participation.”
It is as if, by way of ‘pre-,‘ the same query that affect (in)famously asks of a body – ‘what can it do?’ – is likewise asked of the cognitive, the personal, the linguistic, the individual, the social. Because we don’t yet know. ‘Pre-‘ addresses the establishing of a recognizably coherent-enough actuality (say, the linguistic) while not letting go of the processes, conditions, and contexts that give contour/texture/rhythm to its arising (hence, the pre-linguistic). Thus, it yields, for example: the consideration of consciousness alongside the processes that produce the distinction between consciousness and its other(s). (Here, see Patricia Clough’s plenary on ‘The Thing Self’ and Steven Shaviro’s ‘Slime Mold Metaphysics.’) Or, in another instance of pre-, it means considering the individual and the social alongside the processes that lead to their mutually exclusive [now turned inclusive] bifurcation. (Thus, the importance of ‘trans-‘, as found in Gilbert Simondon’s ‘transindividuation,’ highlighted in plenary talks by Jeremy Gilbert and Jason Read.)
If ‘non-‘ is a ground-clearing maneuver that can afford studies of affect the opportunity to figure in the (often gradual, barely noticeable) seepages and excesses of more-than, other-than, different-than(-human/-intentionality/-representational etc), then ‘pre-‘ (-individual/-social/-linguistic etc) offers the perpetual alongsidedness of the processual. In brief, ‘non-‘ says ‘not only this but more’ whereas ‘pre-‘ maintains, over and over again, ‘yes and… yes and… yes and…’
What if, then, ‘pre-‘ and ‘non-‘ were heard together as the invocation of modest, accumulative in-gatherings and not as the seismic eruption of unbridgeable epistemological/ontological gulfs? I am reminded of the kind of small-scale, incremental attentiveness that characterizes Heather Love’s most recent work (see her ‘Small Change: The Politics of the Micro’ plenary) and, among other things, her careful consideration of Claudia Rankine’s writing technique. It is Rankine who – in the opening pages (page 8 to be exact) of her Citizen: An American Lyric – alights upon an ethos that will guide her poetic depiction of everyday, racially charged scenes. Addressing you – not the lyric poetry ‘you’ but, as Love notes, the procedural ‘you’ – Rankine says:
‘You are reminded of a conversation you had recently, comparing the merits of sentences constructed implicitly with “yes, and” rather than “yes, but.” You and your friend decided that “yes, and” attested to a life with no turn-off, no alternative routes…’
In the conference’s very first question and answer session following the plenaries from Lisa Blackman and Heather Love, Tavia Nyong’o wondered aloud if maybe the conference – and I would propose here, affect study itself – ‘might be ruled over by two spirits: Lewis Carroll and Claudia Rankine.’ Really, why not?
Six impossible things before breakfast. Yes and. A life with no turn-off. What else? What better?
Okay, okay. Enough about supposed disciplinary formations and deformations. Enough defense of non- and pre-. Just a few remaining words to offer (tentatively) about what I see as the general shape of affect study’s present undertakings and trajectories-to-come.
Because there are not any readymade steps to follow, no half-buried answers waiting to be uncovered, every project related to affect enacts yet another context and set of conditions to be unfolded anew. The question of affect modulates at every point of contact, relying – yes – upon quasi-steadying disciplinary and sensory mechanisms of investigation but also across the length and breadth of intersecting/diverging trajectories of matter and matterings. (Here the paired plenary talks of Melissa Gregg and Natasha Dow Schüll capture the technologized histories and futures of affective matter and mattering vividly.) As such, WTF Affect serves as an interrogative as much as anything. “Okay, affect study: what have you got? What can you do?”
Talking about affect divorced from any particular context is, let’s just say, difficult. Perhaps not entirely pointless – after all, theories of affect do coalesce and vibrate and unfasten around shared pathways of situational emergence and fade – but if affect study is to be capacious (as I have maintained it must) then it cannot be closed down (as outlined above) around any specific disciplinary route or explicit set of step-by-step methods or cleanly-scrubbed concept-clusters or rote performative gestures. (See Zizi Papacharissi’s plenary for an inventive approach to affect analysis that relies upon the gathering and parsing of reams of data on social media use.) Cast a wary eye upon anyone who tells you that they have located the ONE WAY that critical attention to affect should be pursued.
But perhaps a few capaciously-oriented parameters could be ventured…
At its most fundamental abstraction, I would argue – ready your wary eye! – that the study of affect works to provide a contextualized account of relationality (inbetween-ness) and singularity (this-ness) at the same time: by never letting go of the scalar nature of vicinity (about-ness: micro/macro level of forces, histories, & present pressures) and the continuous gradience of intensities (forcefulness or the +/- sensate slope of alteration in the ongoing state-of-things). The body (a body) – bearing, materially & immaterially, all of its affecting ‘non-‘s and ‘pre-‘s as its own unique and modulatory sets of capacities and intransigencies – figures in as orienting trajectory or pathway, defined by its viscosity (pleated-ness: its rhythmic composition of stickiness and porosity).
These features – inbetween-ness, this-ness, about-ness, and forcefulness + a body’s pleated-ness – are not prescriptions for practice (hardly) but are more like zones or thresholds that fuzz in and out as they come to figure into one’s accounting of affect (or affects) situationally. Sometimes – indeed, more often than not – slippery things & event-processes don’t resolve themselves into neat little compartments and tidy vectors and right angles, and so the study of affect stakes out a place in the numerous incoherences that texturize a world. Recognizing that untangling or separating-out and critical distancing are not always the only or best available options, affect study frequently chooses to ‘middle out’ by wading into the ambient overdeterminations of existence and the energies that move (or impede, swerve, etc) bodies (of all kinds) in the very midst of their activity. Yes, this middling-out of affect study can often feel like a muddling-through (‘That’s it?! But where is, um, agency? We want theories that jump up, assert themselves, and knock things over’). But why shouldn’t one modest aim of affect study be: to make or foster along, even if the barest ripple across the surface, a more expansive ongoing-ness (which is not to ignore those visceral moments in the present that need expansive resistance too). And while that is never enough (when it is ever enough?), it can be a start, this making room. This capacious-ness.
iv. Where we go from here
The ‘F’ (as in Future) of WTF Affect
Capacious: The Journal for Emerging Affect Inquiry
So, here is the current plan forward:
FIRST! WTF Affect will serve as an online forum for occasional writing contributions from established affect studies scholars, videos, interviews, aesthetic & evocative juxtapositions, sharing links and the latest news surrounding affect-related work (new books and articles, upcoming conferences / symposia and the like). If you are Facebook, there is a WTF Affect Facebook page too.
The next episode of WTF Affect is in the early planning stages. The chief focus will be PEDAGOGY: yes and … affect. While we are already rustling up things behind the scenes, if you have ideas and contributions for this particular episode or for the website in general, post them to our Facebook page or send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
SECOND! We are DELIGHTED to announce the imminent launch – with a target for first submissions: OCTOBER 1st – of an open-access/peer-reviewed journal called Capacious: The Journal for Emerging Affect Inquiry. The journal’s accent will be upon ‘emergent’ as much as capacious. That is, our priority will be, first and foremost, to publish work by degree-seeking students (Masters, PhD, brilliant undergraduates). But, secondarily, we will also welcome contributions from early career researchers, recent post-graduates, those approaching their study of affect independent of academia (by choice or not), and, perhaps occasionally, an established scholar with an ‘emerging’ idea or some tentative venturing onto new affective ground.
But publishing work by graduate students – from and across any and all disciplinary trajectories – will be the top priority for Capacious. After all, it is the graduate students who are often the most reliable boundary-testers in any discipline. It makes sense that there should be a highly visible place for these up-and-coming voices at the frontiers of affect inquiry to join in, invigorate, and perhaps sometimes redirect ongoing conversations. That’s Capacious.
Yes, there are already quite wonderful and worthy print journals – such as Body & Society, Cultural Studies, Critical Inquiry, Subjectivities, and several others – issuing very stirring, original work on and around affect. But here is what will set Capacious apart:
The chief idea behind Capacious is that we will work to publish shorter works by graduate students, early career scholars and other figures of emergence in affect study that focus on topically relevant events, freshly minted practices/concepts/methods, and those tingly resonances that always resound through long-standing lineages of convergence/divergence. Most crucially, we will speed up the traditional publication process by releasing articles as they are ready. That is, Capacious will continuously accept rolling submissions – generally we would like shorter pieces of between 2000-3000 words (although sometimes longer) – and ‘publish’ them to the site after they have gone through the review process, been edited, formatted, etc. Once we have reached 5-6 articles posted to the site, we'll gather them together as a single downloadable "issue” and, given the respective contents of the issue, ask an appropriately resonant member from our editorial board to write an intro or afterword that captures some of the key aspects and arguments raised across the assembled pieces.
Our not-so-secret wish is that the essays and subsequent issues will be quite rangy (emerging from various disciplines and angles) and, well, capacious in their approaches to the study of affect. No ‘theme’ issues for the foreseeable future! Indeed, it would be perfectly lovely if the pieces did not coalesce very much at all but rather rub up against one another unexpectedly or shot past each other without ever quite touching on the same kind of disciplinary imperatives, theoretical presuppositions or subject matter. We will be counting on contagious momentum to keep everything churning along without the need to put out a call-for-papers (after our initial October 1st one) and no need to wait for that last straggling contributor to finish revisions so that an issue can enter into final production.
Think of the journal Capacious as one way to prevent the shimmering, spikey dispersion of affect studies from settling into a too-smooth orthodoxy of the tried-and-true-and-tested.
We will keep you updated here and via social media (Facebook & Twitter) on the progress toward our launch. Advance warning: the journal’s editorial board is interdisciplinary, international, and otherwise incredible.
Again, the first call for submissions will come on October 1. In the meantime, if you have questions or suggestions, please email us at email@example.com
Download full-text PDF
Thanks to all who have contributed their feedback and their labor to this opening episode of WTF Affect. Extra-special thanks go to Mathew Arthur (website design/insights and the co-editor of Capacious), Eric Griffin (plenary video editing, Gordon/Sampson juxtaposition, early dream-wrangling, and more), and Johnny Gainer (early stages local tech trouble-shooting). Another loud shout-out for helping with the initial frame up of the Capacious journal idea goes to Mathew Arthur, Bryan Behrenshausen, Andrew Murphie, Casey Boyle, and Jenny Rice.
Thanks always and forever to Lawrence Grossberg for being exactly the kind of engaged and perpetually provocative curmudgeon that affect study requires.
Let’s keep these things – WTF Affect and Capacious – going.