Ficha de leitura: Ordinary Affects – Kathleen Stewart

STEWART, Kathleen. Ordinary Affects. Duke university Press. Durham & London, 2007.


[the book] suggests that the terms neoliberalism, advanced capitalism, and globalization that index this emergent present, and the five or seven or ten characteristics used to summarize and define it in shorthand, do not themselves begin to describe the situation we find ourselves in. The notion of a totalized system, of which everything is always already somehow a part, is not helpful (to say the least) in the effort to approach a weighted and reeling present. This is not to say that the forces these systems try to name are not real and literally pressing. On the contrary, I am trying to bring them into view as a scene of immanent force, rather than leave them looking like dead effects imposed on an innocent world. (STEWART, 2007, p. 1)


Ordinary affects are the varied, surging capacities to affect and to be affected that give everyday life the quality of a continual motion of relations, scenes, contingencies, and emergences. (STEWART, 2007, p. 1-2)

Ordinary affects are public feelings that begin and end in broad circulation, but they’re also the stuff that seemingly intimate lives are made of. They give circuits and flows the forms of a life. They can be experienced as a pleasure and a shock, as an empty pause or a dragging undertow, as a sensibility that snaps into place or a profound disorientation. They can be funny, perturbing, or traumatic. Rooted not in fixed conditions of possibility but in the actual lines of potential that a something coming together calls to mind and sets in motion, they can be seen as both the pressure points of events or banalities suffered and the trajectories that forces might take if they were to go unchecked. (STEWART, 2007, p. 2)


At once abstract and concrete, ordinary affects are more directly compelling than ideologies, as well as more fractious, multiplicitous, and unpredictable than symbolic meanings. (STEWART, 2007, p. 3)


This book tries to slow the quick jump to representational thinking and evaluative critique long enough enough to find ways of approaching the complex and uncertain objects that fascinate because they literally his us or exert a pull on us. This means building an idiosyncratic map [5] of connections between a series of singularities. (STEWART, 2007, p. 4-5)


The ordinary is a circuit that’s always tuned in to some little something somewhere.

A mode of attending to the possible and the threatening, it amasses the resonance in things. (STEWART, 2007, p. 12)


Hitchcock was a master of the still in film production. A simple pause of the moving camera to focus on a door or a telephone could produce a powerful suspense. [19]

Ordinary life, too, draws its charge from rhythms of flow and arrest. Still lifes punctuate its significance: the living room strewn with ribbons and wine glass after a party, the kids or dogs asleep in the back of a seat of the car after a great (or not so great) day at the lake, the collection of sticks and rocks resting on the dashboard after a hike in the mountains, the old love letters stuffed in a box in the closet, the moments of humiliation or shock that suddenly lurch into view without warning, the odd moments of spacing out when a strange malaise comes over you, the fragments of experience that pull at ordinary awareness but rarely come into full frame.

A still life is a static state filled with vibratory motion, or resonance. A quivering in the stability of a category or a trajectory, it gives the ordinary the charge of an unfolding. (STEWART, 2007, p. 18-19)


When a still life pops out of the ordinary, it can come as a shock or as some kind of wake-up call. Or it can be a scene of sheer pleasure–an unnamed condensation of thought and feeling. Or an alibi for all of the violence, inequality and social insanity folded into the open disguise of ordinary things. Or it can be a flight from numbing routine and all the self-destructive strategies of carrying on. (STEWART, 2007, p. 19)


The ordinary throws itself together out of forms, flows, powers, pleasures, encounters, distractions, drudgery, denials, practical solutions, shape-shifting forms of violence, daydreams, and opportunities lost or found.

Or it falters, fails.

But either way we feel its pull. (STEWART, 2007, p. 29)


Banality is the vitality of the times. You can slip into any of the places where it’s on display and check out for a while without ever feeling disconnected for a second. (STEWART, 2007, p. 49)


Power is a thing of the senses. It lives as a capacity, or a yearning, or a festering resentment. It can be sensualized in night rages.

It can begin as a secret kept or as a gesture glimpsed in a hallway.

It can be leaked or harvested for future reference.

It can spread like wildflower seeds randomly tossed on a suburban lawn.

We do things with power, and to it. There are palpable pleasures and acid stomachs in questioning it, spying on it, digging it up, calling it out, evading it, ingratiating oneself to it, sacrificing oneself on its altar, putting something over on it, or somehow coming to rest outside its whirlpool even for a minute (STEWART, 2007, p. 84)


The dream of redemptive violence has become the ready matter of commonplace dreams. Dramas of a clarifying surge of action saturate ordinary life, macho movies, laws, publics, institutions, and diffuse, existential dilemmas of personhood and power. Mythic heroes sacrifice themselves to rebirth the world. Tight little circles of religion wrap themselves in apocalyptic dreams. The nation-state gets tough on crime on behalf of family values. The death penalty comes to stand for the execution of evil itself, one individual at a time. And everyday life is hot with the constant [87] clash of people butting up against each other followed by the consuming dream of righteous revenge.

To say that a thing like redemptive violence is a myth is not to say that it’s like a bad dream you can wake up from or an idea you can talk people out of. It’s more like a strand in the netting that holds things together. A conduit for bits and pieces of political beliefs, networks, technologies, affinities, dreamed-of possibilities and events.

It can take many forms. It can be a mean pettiness, a dissolute rage, a habit of self-destruction, an overcharged and swollen will, a body in a state of alarm. It can be a derailed sensibility thrashing around at full throttle. Or something really small. It’s road rage, or parents whipped into violent deeds to protect their children, or drug addicts slashing at the American dream as they spiral out of it. There’s always something a little “off” in the way it plays itself out. A little sad. It’s the teenagers who kill, the pipe dreams popping up all over the place, the smoldering resentments in workplaces and intimate places. (STEWART, 2007, p. 86-87)


The ordinary is a drifting immersion that watches and waits for something to pop up. (STEWART, 2007, p. 95)


The body is both the persistent site of self-recognition and the thing that always betray us. It dreams of redemption but it knows better than that too. (STEWART, 2007, p. 114)


The ordinary is a thing that has to be imagined and inhabited.

It’s also a sensory connection. A jump.

And a world of affinities and impacts that take place in the moves of intensity across things that seem solid and dead. (STEWART, 2007, p. 127)


This book is about how moving forces are immanent in scenes, subjects, and encounters, or in blocked opportunities or the banality of built environments.

It’s also about the need for a speculative and concrete attunement. It suggests that thought is not the kind of thing that flows inevitably from a given “way of life,” but rather something that takes off with the potential trajectories in which it finds itself in the middle. (STEWART, 2007, p. 128)




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