Biology’s Gift: Interrogating the Turn to Affect

Body and Society 16 (1):29-56 (2010)

Abstract

This article investigates how the turn to affect within the humanities and social sciences re-imagines the relationship between cultural theory and science. We focus on how the writings of two neuroscientists and one developmental psychologist are used in order to ground certain claims about affect within cultural theory. We examine the motifs at play in cultural theories of affect, the models of biology with which they work, and some fascinating missteps characterizing the taking up of scientific literature. While neuroscience frames the affective as part of a system of regulation that makes both self and social coherence possible, in cultural theory’s narratives, by contrast, affectivity becomes a placeholder for the inherent dynamism and mutability of matter. The article interrogates the consequences of cultural theory’s strange borrowings from neuroscience and developmental psychology in their institution of a model of subjectivity preoccupied with a lived present in excess of the hold of habit and embodied history.

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References found in this work

The Specious Present: A Neurophenomenology of Time Consciousness.Francisco Varela - 1999 - In Jean Petitot, Franscisco J. Varela, Barnard Pacoud & Jean-Michel Roy (eds.), Naturalizing Phenomenology. Stanford University Press. pp. 266--314.

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Citations of this work

The Turn to Affect: A Critique.Ruth Leys - 2011 - Critical Inquiry 37 (3):434-472.
Affective Resonance and Social Interaction.Rainer Mühlhoff - 2015 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 14 (4):1001-1019.
Norms of Testimony in Broad Interdisciplinarity: The Case of Quantum Mechanics in Critical Theory.Rasmus Jaksland - 2021 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 52 (1):35-61.

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