Affect is Everywhere

Brian Massumi’s last story in The Autonomy of Affect is his most powerful one.

“The ability of affect to produce an economic effect more swiftly and surely than economics itself means that affect is a real condition…” (45). 

Although Massumi is referring to President Clinton’s health-care bill and the impact it had on the economy, we see instances like this all the time in our daily lives. We also see experts attributing these events to “faith” or “luck” or “mindset”, but in reality these instances are manifestations of affect. Massumi takes this theoretical, abstract concept (which has been pondered by multiple experts) and he says that it is physical and real. That we can not only speculate about it, but we can observe its effect in a substantial manner.

I particularly resonated with Massumi’s understand of affect as “intensity”. Massumi’s fixation on affect does not take away from the concepts of feelings, or emotions but it rather adds to our understanding.

In my effort to better understand my ecology and the problem of diabetes/obesity in the area, I have been reflecting on my perception of nature. Massumi talks about our outdated idea of humans being the rational animals and how it has now evolved into “human as the chattering animal”(38). This leads to a rigid divide between human and nonhuman entities. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I don’t want to explore my problem only through a human lens.

“The concepts of nature and culture need serious reworking, in a way that expresses the irreducible alterity of the nonhuman in and through its active connection to the human and vice versa” (39)

The problem of diabetes/obesity can be linked to many issues such as food waste, income disparity, neighborhood regulation, lack of nutrition education etc. Us humans have a habit of thinking about nature, only in relation to ourselves. Massumi articulates this concept very succinctly by saying that there is no point in studying the nonhuman if the nonhuman is simply an accessory of human culture.

The map I made above is by no means a 100% accurate. I tried creating a criteria for qualifying eateries as “healthy” (green) or “unhealthy (red). Apart from obvious factors such as the nutritional value of menu items, I also tried researching about their waste management practices and prices etc. It’s a work-in-progress as I update it every time I visit the neighborhood but the underlying idea is to understand diabetes/obesity in a more meaningful and comprehensive manner.

The claims Massumi makes of Ronald Reagan’s success as a flawed president, I see a lot of those traits in Massumi’s writing itself. He says, “The last story was of the brain. This one is of the brainless. His name is Ronald Reagan” (39). Making no attempt to hide his opinion, Massumi is blunt and succinct. Massumi says that Regan’s means were affective, not emotional. He then elaborates on the power of interruption. If we look at the structure of Autonomy of Affect, there are a lot of interruptions in the flow of information. But much like Regan’s speeches, it works for Massumi! Personally, I did struggle with this text because Massumi is covering a lot of bases. But we don’t love his writing despite its complexity, we love it because of it.

~ by mishavaid7 on October 12, 2019.

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