Revisit of Flushing,Queens for immigrants housing—changes in affect

I have only been to Flushing a few times before starting this ecology project, and never really extended beyond restaurants or Karaoke on Main Street. In this, my first impression of Flushing Asian Community was pretty good with authentic food and cheap entertainment. I enjoyed walking down the crowded street with people of my own race, low buildings contain vibrant markets, bright-colored signboards above roofs of the stores and more. This is a vibrant community with a huge Asian population, but different from Chinatown or Ktown in Manhattan where they are pretty assimilated into the city center, Flushing is pretty isolated, which is also my only complain. There is only one Metro line (Line 7) and one train line (Port Washington) that directly reach Flushing from Penn Station, Manhattan. Just like how Brennan explained the transmission of affect, I was expected to elicit positive affect when walking around flushing, at least based on my very limited knowledge before doing the project. However, ever since I started doing research about Flushing and visited my ecology more in-depth, I noticed an obvious change in terms of the affect I experienced. I feel more negative towards this place, yet the ecology itself doesn’t really change that much during this periods of time. If as what Brennan discussed in the Transmission of Affect that “we are not self-contained in terms of our energies”  and such energy is interchangeable, shouldn’t I feel what I felt before? 

After reading Massumi’s the Autonomy of Affect, I think I find the answer to my question. There is a difference between emotion and affect. According to Massumi, emotion is subjective and related to the sociolinguistic quality of experience. What I felt about my ecology generated solely from my limited interaction with the place. I had nothing but good memories of this place because of all the funs that I had with my friends here. But affect is not only about my thoughts and about the limited places that I have been to. Just as the photography example listed by Massumi in this article, the snowman film was most effective among children when it has no voice-over but just image. It shows that the affect of image (or surrounding in my ecology case) is not connected to the information or our former understanding, but still able to affect people since the content “indexing to conventional meanings in an intersubjective context, its sociolinguistic qualification” (Masssumi). Taken this to my own situation, after getting to know about the struggling of immigrants to rent affordable housing, I tend to examine the surroundings based on this new understanding and expect to find intended meanings. Moreover, I discovered residential areas other than the popular main streets with shopping malls and happy tourists, the intensity of image I observed of unsatisfied living conditions, of local people finding houses struck me more than ever. In order to get close to true intensity, according to Massumi, I should approach my ecology without preconceived ideas that might interfere with the result. However, I should also be aware of going to another extreme, which I did in my very first two investigations: to try to capture the most negative aspect of my ecology in order to prove the source of a certain energy dimension. Massumi’s article inspired me that inside a community affects are autonomous and every element, whether positive or negative, helps to contribute to this affect. It shouldn’t be manipulated into the way I want to capture but let the environment itself decide how I should capture. 


Brennan Teresa, “The Transmission of Affect.” Cornell University Press, 2004

Massumi, Brian. “The Autonomy of Affect.” Cultural Critique, no. 31, 1995, pp. 83–109.

~ by ashleyli on March 1, 2020.