Join us each month for lectures and events that 'follow the affective turn', as we hear from leading scholars working in and around the field of affect studies. To view our lecture series line-up and information about our summer symposium, click here.
The paper explores the contemporary cultural politics of hope in the midst of a slow crisis in the legitimacy of the hopes entangled with neoliberalisms.
Honing in on the transitions between welfare state capitalism and neoliberalism in the 1970s and between neoliberalism and emerging illiberalisms in the present, it argues that central to neoliberalism was a promise of intensity – the hope that life can be lived intensely. The neoliberal counter-revolution domesticated the artistic critique of the deadened worlds of fordism, promising that participation in the market would lead to a life lived through enlivening excitement, drama and enthusiasm.
Today, in the midst of emerging illiberalisms, the legitimacy of the promise of intensity is in crisis. It is in crisis, partly, because of the new forms of boredom that have accompanied neoliberalising apparatuses and forms, including those associated with the digital economy, bureaucracy, and logistical work. Life is too little, too flat. But it is also in crisis because intensity has become overwhelming. In worlds characterised by burnout and other affects of frenzy and scarred by continued racial violence and the excesses of right-wing populism, life is too intense, events overwhelm.
Crisis is lived as the enervating absence of intensity and its overwhelming presence. Life is at once underwhelming and overwhelming, too much and too little. Staying with the ‘empty time’ of boredom allows us to diagnose a crisis of the hope for intensity at the heart of contemporary reorientations of capital and politics in a turbulent present. In tracking this crisis of intensity and staying with boredom, the paper explores how work on the politics of affect might respond to the contemporary political moment.
Professor Ben Anderson is a cultural-political geographer at Durham University, UK. His work research conceptualises ordinary affective life, and examines the politics of affect in relation to emergency governance, Brexit and the rise of populisms of the left and right, and other contemporary conditions. His 2014 book – Encountering Affect: Capacities, Apparatuses, Conditions (Routledge)– set out a theory of how affective life is organised and mediated. He is currently working on a geo-history of boredom and changes in capitalism since the 1970s, using boredom as a way into thinking about the politics of eventfulness in political times often described and critiqued as intensely turbulent.
Following the Affective Turn is an interdisciplinary research project that hopes to invite discussion and reflection on the current state of affect studies. Formed between Royal Holloway UoL and the University of Brighton, we are excited to run a short series of informal reading groups, a public lecture series and a graduate symposium. This lecture series is kindly supported by the techne AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership. More here.
Join us for our next event, featuring a lecture from Xine Yao (UCL) on Wednesday 27th October at 5pm BST.