Institute of Para-Enactment Research
Softcore Historicism and Embodied Heritage



The term “affect”, defined as the production of an emotional response, and therefore an influence, into someone, has gain broader attention in cultural studies as connected to what has been defined as the affective turn in science. Affective methodologies in cultural research have been defined as the strategies for asking research questions and formulating research agendas relating to affective processes, for collecting or producing embodied data and for  making sense of this data in order to produce academic knowledge. Defined by Britta Timm Knudsen and Carsten Stage, theories of affect depart from affect/emotion as an outside stimulation perceived by the body and then reaching the cognitive apparatus (Massumi, Thrift, Brennan and Clough), but they also use affect to challenge such dichotomies as body and cognition, biology and culture, the physical and psychological (f Ahmed herself, Ruth Leys, Margaret Wetherell, Judith Butler and Lisa Blackman). In all cases affect produces a type of knowledge strongly situated (Donna Haraway), as it directly depends on the embodied experience of the subject affected.

For Ahmed, “ In such affective economies, emotions do things, and they align individuals with communities—or bodily space with social space—through the very intensity of their attachments. Rather than seeing emotions as psychological dispositions, we need to consider how they work, in concrete and particular ways, to mediate the relationship between the psychic and the social, and between the individual and the collective (…) how emotions work by sticking figures together (adherence), a sticking that creates the very effect of a collective (coherence)”.

In the words of Tara Mehrabi  an affective method “takes affective encounters and bodily responses as a crucial part of knowledge production; one that can formulate new questions, research agendas, and modes of data collection and analyses. Affective methodology takes emotions and bodily affects such as love, disgust, intensity and desire seriously because such responses and resonances expose ethical dilemmas that are part of knowledge production processes, while simultaneously offering other modes of ethics. Such methodologies are particularly essential for inclusion within the context of science and technology, which are often understood to be objective, disembodied and value free.”

The following extract comes from there introduction of the volume “Affective Methodologies,Developing Cultural Research Strategies for the Study of Affect “ edited by Britta Timm Knudsen and Carsten Stage.

“In contemporary cultural theory, ‘The solidity of the subject has dissolved into a concern with those processes, practices, sensations and affects that move through bodies in ways that are difficult to see, understand and investigate’, states Lisa Blackman (2012). After years of focusing on constructivist and discursive research paradigms, the need to understand what Scott Lash calls our increasingly ‘intensive’ culture – fuelled by the dissemination of global, hypercomplex and multisensual spaces,  media and everyday practices (Lash, 2010) – has stimulated an array of affect research among cultural analysts. Since Michel Foucault and his analysis of power as ‘biopower’, the ‘bio’ has been at the center of interest, when it comes to investigating forms and strategies of control, domination, resistance and dislocations. The ‘affective turn’ represents both the urge to understand how, for example, bodies are targeted and strategically modulated affectively, and how they become empowered and mobilized socially and politically (Grusin, 2010; Protevi, 2009; Knudsen and Stage, 2012).”

In regards to para-enactment research, affect is used to complexify historical narrations towards a more inclusive gace. The following excerpt by Rebecca Schneider  is taken from her book “Performin g Remains”:

“All of this is enough, of course, to cause some (though decidedly not all) university-based professional historians significant anxiety. In an essay noting the dangers of historical reenactment for scholarship, Vanessa Agnew argues that reenactment can be accused of “eclipsing the past with its own theatricality.” In her formulation, as in others’, history can be overrun by the error-ridden embarrassment of the live body (here indicated as “theatricality”) reenacting the past in the present.8 Alexander Cook agrees, erecting, as if unproblematic, the classic mind/body split to suggest reenactment’s “persistent tendency to privilege a visceral, emotional engagement with the past at the expense of a more analytical treatment.”9 By this account, touch (“visceral”), and affective engagement (“emotional”), are in distinction to the “analytical.”10

In marked contrast to this view, recent scholars in queer historiography, such as Carolyn Dinshaw, Chris Nealon, Louise Fradenberg, Carla Freccero, Elizabeth Freeman, Dana Luciano, Heather Love, and Judith Halberstam build on materialist, post-colonial, psychoanalytic, and post-structural theories to argue for an inquiry and analysis that challenges received modern Western conventions of temporal linearity (conventions Dipesh Chakrabarty calls “modern historical consciousness” and Ann Pellegrini and Janet Jakobsen call “secular time”). Such scholars argue for the value of crossing disparate and multiple historical moments to explore the ways that past, present, and future occur and recur out of sequence in a complex crosshatch not only of reference but of affective assemblage and investment.11

Indeed, there has been something of an “affective turn” in scholarship, coming close on the heels of the “performative turn” that arguably reached an apex in the 1990s. Patricia Clough is often cited for crafting the phrase “affective turn” and she links the turn to Gilles Deleuze and Brian Massumi, but the phrase appeared much earlier in feminist work by Kathleen Woodward, Lauren Berlant, and Linda Nicholson.12 The affective turn is extremely interesting in regard to the fact that it seems to resist the binary still so virile in the linguistic ties of the performative turn – that is, the binary between writing or textuality on the one hand and embodied gestic repertoires of behavior on a seeming other. The affective turn resists replicating the body/text binary, but situates itself more interestingly in spaces
etween such binaries – including self/other – as much affect is situated, like atmosphere, between bodies. Thinking through affective engagement offers a radical shift in thinking about our mobilities in dealings with the binaried landscapes of social plots (such as gender, such as race), undoing the solidity of binaries in favor of mining the slip and slide of affect as negotiation. As such, affects – and feelings and emotions (though the differences in terminologies vary between scholars) – are often described via words that indicate viscosity, tactility, or a certain mobility in the way one is moved. Kathleen Stewart, following Alphonso Lingis, suggestively writes of the “jump” of affect – the way affect jumps between bodies – crosses borders of bodies, getting into and out of bodies as if there were no material border of consequence even “if only for a minute.”13 Teresa Brennan takes the jump as “transmission”
between such binaries – including self/other – as much affect is situated, like atmosphere, between bodies.” 

︎︎︎Knudsen B.T., Stage C. (2015) Introduction: Affective Methodologies. In: Knudsen B.T., Stage C. (eds) Affective Methodologies. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137483195_1


︎︎︎Lisa Blackman: Immaterial Bodies. Affect, Embodiment, Mediation. London: Sage. 2012.

︎︎︎Grusin, Richard. “Premediation: Affect and Mediality after 9/11,” 2010. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230275270.

︎︎︎Ahmed, Sara. “Affective Economies.” Social Text 22, no. 2 (2004): 117–39. https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-22-2_79-117.

︎︎︎Mehrabi, Tara. “Affective Method2 Almanac, New Materialisms

︎︎︎ Berlin, 2022

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