Ficha de leitura: Affect: what is it good for? – William Mazzarella

MAZZARELLA, William. Affect: what is it good for? In: DUBE, Saurabh (Org.). Enchantments of Modernity: Empire, Nation, Globalization. New York: Routledge, 2009.

Gilles Deleuze, in an essay on David Hume, credits the latter with having discovered that ‘affective circumstances’ pre-exist and guide the ‘principles of association’ that constitute what we like to recognize as reason (2001 [1972]: 45) Deleuze is thus confirmed in his belief that there is, in John Rajchman’s words, ‘an element in experience that comes before the determination of subject and sense’ (2001: 15). (MAZZARELLA, 2009, p. 292)

Massumi characterizes affect as a domain of intensity, indeterminacy and above all potentially, which the signifying logic of culture reduces or, in his terms, ‘qualifies.’ Affect is both embodied and impersonal. The appearence of personal, subjective life is, then, for Massumi as for Deleuze a secondary effect of cultural mediation. This is why affect cannot be equated with emotion:

An emotion is a subjective content, the socilinguistic fixing of the quality of an experience which is from that that point onward defined as personal. Emotion is qualified intensity, the conventional, consensual point of insertion of intensity into semantically and semiotically formed progressions, into narrativizable action-reaction circuits, into function and meaning. It is intensity owned and recognized (Massumi 2002: 28).  (MAZZARELLA, 2009, p. 292)

For all the talk of ‘the body’ in current culture theory, Massumi complains, the body rarely appears as anything much [293] more than dumb matter available for discipline and cultural inscription: ‘Is the body linked to a particular subject position anything more than a local embodiment of ideology?’ (ibid.: 3, original emphasis). (MAZZARELLA, 2009, p. 292-3)

The just-so story we too tell ourselves about the origins of modernity takes disenchantment as its central theme. In this denuded fairy-tale, affect is progressively evacuated from an increasingly rationalized bourgeois world to the point where politics becomes, in Paul Valery’s words, ‘the art of preventing the senses from getting involved in what concerns them’ (quoted in Maffesoli 1996 [1988]: 154). (MAZZARELLA, 2009, p. 294)

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