The recent “materialist turn” stresses the fundamental role of nonhumans in the constitution of humans’ social and political life and argues that the inability to grasp their importance dooms normative prognoses for ordering society to ethical, political, and practical failure. This article combines insights from recent affect theory and indigenous and non–North Atlantic societies in response to this epistemological and theoretical critique. It argues (1) that affect analyses can give a fuller account of the ways in which nonhuman others participate in the creation and maintenance of human sociability and (2) that societies such as those organized along totemistic or animist lines have a different “affective attunement” toward nonhuman others, whom they admit as social members (we call these heterological societies). However, anthropocentrism renders insensible the logic of their modes of social organization. Referring to ethnographic examples, this article shows how affect analysis can help translate the insights of heterological societies, so as to eventually dismantle the current anthropocentrism.
Affect Matters: Strolling through Heterological Ecologies
Dorothy H. B. Kwek is a political theorist working with modern philosophy, comparative (non–North Atlantic) theory, and postcolonial approaches. She is the author of “Power and the Multitude: A Spinozist View,” Political Theory (2015), and “The Importance of Being Useless: A Cross-Cultural Contribution to the New Materialisms from Zhuangzi,” Theory, Culture and Society (forthcoming). Her current project is an interdisciplinary sociopolitical theory of economic imaginaries.
Robert Seyfert is a sociologist in the Department of Social Sciences at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. His current research focuses on affects and algorithms. He is the author of “Beyond Personal Feelings and Collective Emotions: A Theory of Social Affect,” Theory, Culture and Society (2012), and “Bugs, Predations, or Manipulations? Incompatible Epistemic Regimes of High-Frequency Trading,” Economy and Society (2016). His essay “Automation and Affect: A Study of Algorithmic Trading” is forthcoming in a collected volume.
Dorothy H. B. Kwek, Robert Seyfert; Affect Matters: Strolling through Heterological Ecologies. Public Culture 1 January 2018; 30 (1): 35–59. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-4189155
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