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Feminism, affects and the political economy of knowledge (1) Fragments of Auto/Biography (2) Brief Biased History of Affects (3) Cruel Optimism, or How I learned to stop worrying and embrace ‘Depressive Realism’ (Berlant).

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Feminism, affects and the political

economy of knowledge

(1) Fragments of Auto/Biography

(2) Brief Biased History of Affects

(3) Cruel Optimism, or How I learned to stop worrying and embrace ‘Depressive Realism’


part 1 forming feel good feminism
The positive energies of anger – legitimate grievances

The collectivisation of analysis and self/society understanding

How was it possible to think against the intellectual hegemony of the times?

Part 1 : Forming (Feel Good) Feminism?
was feminism a structure of political feeling
Was Feminism A Structure of (Political) feeling ?

‘structures of feeling’ as ‘social experiences in solution, as distinct from other social semantic formations which have been precipitated and are more evidently and immediately available’ In this sense, the structure of feeling is in a condition of unarticulated pre-emergence: it is neither visible, nor fully developed, but its presence can be felt nonetheless’. (Raymond Williams 133-34).

‘[structures of feeling] are about the selective traditions operating on class & culture, …the selective traditions on language & literature’ and ‘the practical social consciousness and knowledge people develop from inside their own histories’ (Jane Miller, 1990, 38)

performing feel bad feminism
Performing (Feel Bad) Feminism?

See inter-alia; work of Morley,(1995); Strathern,(2000); Evans (2004); Gillies & Lucey, (2007); Gill, (2009) indicatively Beverley Skeggs notes:

‘[the effect of the REF]… I think this is when feminism in the academy became feminism of the academy. The politics of knowledge replaced other forms of politics and the activism that had defined a particular sort of feminism became detached from the practice of feminism in academia’ BUT: these ‘driven maniacs’ (i.e.. ourselves) have become the ‘perfect workers for capital’ (Skeggs, 2008).

part 2 the irony of absence academic authorities the affective turn
Part 2: The Irony of Absence - Academic Authorities & ‘The Affective Turn’

Posed now as occurring post-post-structuralism and breaking with Foucauldian discursive determinism but this misrecognizes 3 relevant contributions:

  • Feminism’s embodied knowledge = personal as political &
  • The ensuing feminist scholarship in sociology – feminism as knowledge production
  • The early work in sociology of emotions
the irony of productive presence
The Irony of Productive Presence

[Sociology] should concern itself with what has been too easily left to psychology, namely with well-being, happiness, selfhood and with the languages used to define and talk about these socially situated forms of eudemonia'

(Illouz 1997, p. 61).

Sociology is conspicuously inadequate …physicality, humanity, imagination, the other, fear, the limits of control: all are missing in their own terms, in their own dynamic (2000:19).

(Barrett, 2000)

the sociology of emotions shame
The Sociology of Emotions ; Shame

(From a review by Thomas Scheff) indicatively identifying:

Simmel’s (1904) work on fashion – a treatise on shame,

Lynd’s (1961) work on shame – argued it strengthened social bonds,

Sennett and Cobb (1977) an implicit account of masculine humiliation.

authorising the psycho social
Authorising The Psycho-Social

Lauren Berlant speaks of a ‘sensual turn’ (2008) – cultural studies – literature & structures of feeling – (influenced by Raymond Williams) e.g. devised a 3 part history of national sentimentality.

Margie Wetherell (ethnomethodological approach) sees the domain as

‘encompassing: embodied domains of experience; what repels and what attracts people and how emotions come to move people and societies’ (2012).[affective practices]

Judith Butler; The Psychic Life of Power (1997).

wishful thinking
Wishful Thinking?

Butler does not see ‘identity’ at all, but produces the subject as a fictive accomplishment of ‘identifications’ made in and against the law of the ‘heterosexual matrix’ (Butler, 1990, p. 35).

‘All identifications are saturated by wish fulfilments. This reveals the place of an active imagination or interpretation in the facilitation or prohibition of our own desires but crucially ‘these fantasies are themselves disciplinary productions of grounding cultural sanctions and taboos’.

  • This ties in with thinking about feminist academic desire – the affective charges of the feminist politics of knowledge/production.
part 3 feminist academic am i still feeling it
Part3: Feminist/Academic – Am I Still Feeling it?
  • Feminism’s Passionate Attachments - Audit and Alienation ?
  • The limits of critique – thinking fine but feeling bad!
  • Productivity v Politics?
market forces hard times hard feelings
Market Forces: Hard Times : Hard Feelings

Higher education is now modelled on the types of financial speculation that has helped get us in to this mess’. Students are encouraged to get expensive loans based on an imagined income and to hypothecate their future from the perspective of a non-guaranteed and most likely precarious job with only speculative earning power’

Vernon, (2010)

cruel optimism depressive realism berlant 2006 2010
‘Cruel Optimism’ & ‘Depressive Realism’ (Berlant, 2006, 2010)

‘To phrase ‘the object of desire’ as a cluster of promises is to allow us to encounter what is incoherent or enigmatic in our attachments, not as confirmation of our irrationality but as explanation for our sense of our endurance in the object, all attachments are optimistic‘

‘There is no collective life without norms, the question isn’t how to become post-normative as such but how to respond to the urgency to engender other kinds of anchors or magnets for new social relations and modes of life’

Depressive Realism – An Interview with Lauren Berlant (2010)

berlant s praxis feel tank
Berlant’s Praxis - Feel Tank

The Feel Tank & 2 Day conference for The Politically Depressed

Negative affective states such as depression not a disconnection from politics, but as another form of attachment to it.

depressive realism
Depressive Realism

‘…Most people self-idealize, imagining themselves to be more beautiful and more efficacious than they are: and […] this kind of self-optimism is genuinely adaptive. Depressive realists, in contrast, are more accurate: their sense of realism isn’t dark or tragic, but less defended against taking in the awkwardness and difficulty of living on in the world. So when I said I write as a depressive realist, I meant that I see awkwardness, incoherence, and the difficulty of staying in sync with the world at the heart of what also binds people to the social.