The Politics of Affect

Term: Spring 2012

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6660

In light of the seemingly increasing political polarization and the oft-bemoaned loss of rational argument (alas, has politics ever been rational?), affect, emotion, and the passions become crucial dimensions for analyzing the contemporary political landscape. Taking up this thread, this course will examine different ways of accounting for the role and place of affect(s) in the constitution of the body politic. We will ask which affects come to be understood as political in what sense and how different accounts seek to grasp the materiality and motility of political experience. Is there an affect of critique? What are the affects of political change? How do events, histories, facts, and myths sediment in the affective landscape over time? Looking not only at the changes in political sensibilities, but also in the means by which our affects are shaped, this course will pay particular attention to formulating a conceptual analysis of emerging media, their impact on the modes and tropes of communication, and their influence on shared sensibilities and practices of politics. To tackle this complex of questions, we will bring early modern political theory, early 20th-century German critical theory, and current new media theory into a constellation with each other by examining thinkers such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spinoza, Freud, Cassirer, Gramsci, Sorel, Benjamin, Kracauer, Brecht, McLuhan, Massumi, Benkler, Castells, and Latour.




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