Call for Papers : Theorising Affect, Rethinking Methods and (Re)Envisioning the Social

The notion of affect has recently attracted much attention not only in philosophy and cultural theory, but also, increasingly, in the social sciences. Affect denotes a central register of human relationships and forces us to look at interactions and transactions between bodies prior to and in excess of consciousness and cognition. Conceptualised in a variety of ways—as a substratum of nonverbal and extracognitive communication between subjects, as corporeal capacities to affect and be affected, or simply as an umbrella category for emotion- focused topics in general—scholars are seeking to bring this neglected dimension of lived experience into academic discourse and dialogue. The multidisciplinary conversation is gradually coming to supplement psychoanalytically, psychobiologically or neuro-scientifically inspired approaches to understanding affect with insights drawn from the realms of social, political, and cultural theory; prominent scholars who have contributed to this vein of thought include Silvan Tomkins (1962, 1963), Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1987), Brian Massumi (2002), and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (2003).

These and other understandings of affect open up a whole new arena for the social sciences, which have long been dominated by the parameters of the linguistic turn and analyses of the discursive dimensions of the social, and, more recently, witnessed the emergence of scholarship oriented toward visuality. Yet, affect theory provides us with a set of tools to explore "the social" in new ways, by acknowledging the inherently embodied character of cognitive processes, lived experiences, and social relations, by recognising the body as a socially constituted and lived "assemblage," and by circumventing the temptation to reinscribe the Cartesian mind-body, subject-object dichotomy. In taking the affective aspect of social encounters as a locus for constructively and critically reexamining social life, cultural production, and political relations, scholars have a means for considering actions and interactions of many varieties in a more-holistic fashion, one which attends to a dimension that has thus far been largely overlooked and undervalued. However, such projects call for careful consideration of the transformation or augmentation of methodology required for affect-oriented research in the social sciences. The forthcoming edition of the GJSS consequently focuses on the challenges and opportunities that theories of affect open up for social science research and methodologies.

We therefore welcome papers on topics including, but not limited to:

  • How can we understand the role of Affect Theory in relation to grounded, empirical research in the social sciences? Given that affect is often framed as a phenomenon that escapes knowledge, reason, and language, how can it be made a focus of academic research efforts? How can we avoid rationalizing frameworks of conventional scholarly discourse that may limit our ability to address affect? In what ways can the relationship between emotion and affect be theorized in a way conducive to social science research, while also taking their difference seriously?
  • Does the turn to affect mark a new move toward the ontological, beyond the level of the epistemological? What are the methodological benefits, limitations, and/or possibilities provided by such a move?
  • How should the challenges and provocations of Affect Theory prompt us to think differently about our own positions and roles as scholars—in other words, what does it mean to be a social scientist who works with affective issues? How can social researchers engage with the affective nature of lived realities and embodied subjectivities? How does affect challenge the very positionality of subjectivity? What are the consequences for the traditional division between the 'researching subject' and the 'researched object'?
  • What are the methodological contours and boundaries of affect studies? Is there a place for quantitative or mixed-methods approaches to studying affect? In what ways might we bring a consciousness of the importance of affect into our engagements with historical texts, archives, narrative accounts, oral histories, political discourse, material culture, new media, visual arts, or performance?
  • In what ways may the study of affect open up new spaces for interdisciplinarity or transdisciplinarity? How does Affect Theory question, challenge, or re-envision existing disciplinary delineations and their role in scholarship? What is the place of affect vis-a-vis major theoretical models/schools (Marxist, psychoanalytic, phenomenological, ethnomethodological, and the like)?
  • How might the investigation and theorisation of affect provide a salient intervention into existing trajectories of body-focused scholarship?
  • Can Affect Theory be mobilised to address issues and concerns in the existing literature in body studies? And in what ways does a foregrounding of affect provoke us to think differently about embodied experience?
  • How does affect emerge in societal power relations, and how does power work through affect? How can we theorise social control and deviance through an affective lens? Does Affect Theory accommodate scholarship that is politically committed? What is the role of ethics with respect to the study of affect in social research? What new sorts of social-justice-oriented perspectives may be fostered by turning our attention to the affective dimensions of social phenomena?