Compulsion: Affect, Desire, and Materiality
This chapter explores how affect operates within systems of power. Power is determined neither by language nor the operations of a sovereign consciousness, but by affective compulsions that move bodies. To draw out this motif, this chapter explores three case studies. First, critical approaches to solitary confinement have shown that solitary confinement exhibits the limitations of the self’s sovereignty by highlighting the body’s profound dependency on relationships with things in the world in order to sustain emotional equilibrium. The nonsovereignty of the self is also demonstrated in Lauren Berlant’s notion of cruel optimism—affective attachment to things that are painful or destructive. Finally, we see compulsion at play in the work of Marcel Proust, where material and affective forms, rather than language, determine the course of power. Extracting bodies from an analytical framework that privileges language or consciousness helps chart more effective maps of power following the contours of affect.