Ficha de leitura: Invoking Affect: cultural theory and the ontological turn – Clare Hemmings

HEMMINGS, Clare. Invoking Affect: cultural theory and the ontological turn. In: Cultural Studies.  Vol. 19, no 5.pp. 548-567. Disponível em:<;.  Acesso em 19 nov. 2014.


Affect broadly refers to states of being, rather than to their manifestation or interpretation as emotions. (HEMMINGS, 2005, p. 551)


For Tomkins, then, affect connects us to others […]. Deleuze (1997) proposes affect as distinct from emotion, as bodily meaning that pierces social interpretation, confounding its logic, and scrambling its expectations. (HEMMINGS, 2005, p. 552)

Brian Massumi similarly intervenes in the contemporary terrain of cultural theory to propose affect as a new way out of the pernicious reign of signification that dominates the field (HEMMINGS, 2005, p. 554)


In Massumi, signification is (passive) death, and ontology is (active) life. (HEMMINGS, 2005, p. 557)


Sedgwick and Massumi use the notion of affect as free and autonomous respectively, to persuade cultural theorists of the value of the untrammeled ontological. Sedgwick ’s ‘reparative return’ to the singularity of the ontological hinges on her argument that affect is free from the constraints of both  drives and social meaning. (HEMMINGS, 2005, p. 559)


I want to develop Deleuze’s description of the relationship between body and mind here, to argue that extrapolating from its logic that affect is autonomous, as Massumi does, is a misreading. Deleuze is not critiquing linearity per se, but what we understand as the components of linearity. (HEMMINGS, 2005, p. 564)


The ‘maps of intensity’ that Deleuze would have us draw up in our desire to understand the individual are the shifts from one component to the next, one affective cycle to the next (1997, p. 64). Thus, ‘maps of intensity’ are maps of individual life and meaning in time, perhaps even constituting time. They are certainly not outside time. To pursue this interpretation of Deleuze further, these affective cycles form patterns that are subject to reflective or political, rather than momentary or arbitrary judgement. Such affective cycles might be described not as a series of repeated moments – body-affect-emotion – a self-contained phrase repeated in time, but as an ongoing, incrementally altering chain – body-affect-emotion-affect-body – doubling back upon the body and influencing the individual’s capacity to act in the world. (HEMMINGS, 2005, p. 564)


My critical response to Massumi and Sedgwick’s work on affect, then, is not one that rejects the importance of affect for cultural theory. It is one that rejects the contemporary fascination with affect as outside social meaning, as providing a break in both the social and in critics’ engagements with the nature of the social. The problems in Massumi and Sedgwick discussed in this article do not require a wholesale rejection of affect’s relevance to cultural theory. Instead, affect might be valuable precisely to the extent that it is not autonomous. (HEMMINGS, 2005, p. 565)



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