Remembering Okra. Recognizing Affect.

Homegrown, farm-to-table, vibrant, earthy, rustic.


These words itch at the back of my mind as I walk through the Stuy Town Green Market with the conspicuous camera around my neck. Of course, I don’t attempt to form the affect into words until I’m writing this. Perusing the market, all I discern is the calm I feel surrounded by the small-townish undercurrent of the palatable spectacle flowing around me. I’m in New York City, but the booths at the farmer’s market give me the impression that I could be at a road-side market off the backroads of Georgia.


A small gathering of shoppers picks through the bunches of produce, deciding each vegetable’s worth with their spouse, child, or the vendor. These exchanges create a hum in the air of the cool, slow Sunday morning. Even the rectangular, hand-drawn, chalkboard signs remind the shopper of a nostalgia for endless rolling hills of vegetables, grazing livestock, and cliched red barns—a nostalgia buried deep within us, even though many of us have never experienced life on a farm first-hand.

Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze expand on this question of memory in A Thousand Plateaus:

 “Short-term memory includes forgetting as a process; it emerges not with the instant but instead with the nervous, temporal, and collective rhizome. Long-term memory (family, race, society, or civilization) traces and translates, but what it translates continues to act in it, from a distance, off beat, in an ‘untimely’ way, not instantaneously” (16).

While experiencing the market, I am constantly forgetting what appears before me as I pass booth after booth. The moment becomes permeated by the affect generated by my nervous system; the rhizomatic murmurs entering through my skin, my nostrils, my eyes, and exiting my body in movement, exhales, footsteps.  Meanwhile, my long-term memories dance within the short-term ones, creating new elements from scraps of distant material.


My awareness of the rhizomatic interaction between myself, the environment, and infinitely other dendrites feeds into a point stated by Theresa Brennan in The Transmission of Affect:

“[W]e are not self-contained in terms of our energies. There is no secure distinction between the ‘individual’ and the ‘environment” (6).

Brennan articulates that my memories, the chalkboard sign, the rose-tinted onions, the dirt caked in the creases of the farmer’s fingers, the chicken breasts sealed tightly in plastic, and the warts growing on the coarse skin of the gourd, are all indistinguishable from my own body.


We think of our presence as a unique, unprecedented experience particular to our bodies and minds. And perhaps we are unique, but only in the way in which our emotions surrender to the rhizomatic stimulations erupting all around us—subconscious, subtle, but potent. The okra I spot at the market transports me to the Charleston summers of my childhood, where we roasted the vegetable until it curled just slightly, and served it as an appetizer. I remember so many hands reaching onto the plate, hungry for the gooey, rich insides of the okra. I remember the buzz of the oven that signaled time was up. I remember walking though our green market in Charleston—my father warning me to watch out for the okra that were “too woody.” In the millisecond my eyes meet the okra in the Stuy town market, all these memories compress around me—like an accordion coiled up, waiting to release a burst of music. But the music is already there, it’s all around me. The affect of the market is somehow compressed, infinite, indescribable, palpable, ephemeral, and supremely rich.


Brennan, Theresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004. 1-23. Print.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1987. Print.

~ by kellsmcphillips on October 4, 2016.

9 Responses to “Remembering Okra. Recognizing Affect.”

  1. Best Engagement: the bright colors of your photos catch my eyes and soon I start getting more curious about your topic. I like the proper use and place of your photos and quotes as long as the length of your blog post. very professional 🙂

  2. Best learning – I found that your blog post helped me understand the D&G readings better. I liked how you connected the concept of rhizomes with grocery shopping, an experience that most people can relate with.

  3. I really felt that your blog post had the Best Engagement due to the number of images you included. I really felt that by using images you took yourself, it allowed me to better appreciate your personal anecdote, relating Okra to affect theory. Your implementation of quotes from Deleuze and Guattari within the context of your images allowed me to better understand those texts as I could connect their ideas to a visual graphic.

  4. From what I understood from the end of last week’s lecture, the goal for blog post 2 was to talk about the “affects of your ecology”. This post does just that.

    By walking us through the Stuy Town Green Market, we were able to not just experience the ecosystem, but also get a grip on the affect of her ecosystem. This blog entry is also good because none of the text entries feel forced and feel complementary to the scene that the author is painting.

    This is why I think that this post is a candidate for “best overall”.

  5. Best Learning for Blogs Round 2 – Somehow you’ve managed to create an existential-philosophical-nostalgia filled post about walking through a farmer’s market in Stuy Town, and for that I thank you. You relate the concepts from Deleuze & Guattari and Brennan to your experience in a way that is both very easy to understand and fun to read. Thanks!

    – Kai

  6. I’d say best engagement! Nice job with photos, and your descriptions are vivid and feel lived. I particularly liked your explicit connection between a gourd and a memory, which I think does a good job of illustrating the diversity of rhizomatic connections possible when we open ourselves to the porousness of our individual boundaries!
    – sam

  7. Best overall! First of all your post caught my attention because I’ve always hated okra to be honest and I was curious about what it had to do with the affect of your ecology. Reading through, I think you did a great job of tying together the concept of the rhizome with your memories of the market. I can definitely relate, and it helps me understand the concept of the rhizome a little better. Awesome job!

  8. I think this was the best blog post overall. I enjoyed your incorporation of a childhood memory once you spotted an okra. I also think you effectively tied in the readings. Your detailed description of the market enabled me to clearly visualize it even though I have never been, and the pictures you added helped me with this even more.


  9. Most learning: Your blog helps me further understand the Felix Guattari and Gilles Delouse article. Through reading your blog, I know the affect of short-term and long-term memory better — long-term memory generates the type of feeling you have while you are walking in the market thinking about Georgia, and it also makes me to think about my hometown while dining in a Shanghainess restaurant…
    — Rui

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