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Keywords:

  • Resistance;
  • affect;
  • embodiment;
  • virtual;
  • action;
  • recognition

Abstract

This paper re-examines the sociological study of resistance in light of growing interest in the concept of affect. Recent claims that we are witness to an ‘affective turn’ and calls for a ‘new sociological empiricism’ sensitive to affect indicate an emerging paradigm shift in sociology. Yet, mainstream sociological study of resistance tends to have been largely unaffected by this shift. To this end, this paper presents a case for the significance of affect as a lens by which to approach the study of resistance. My claim is not simply that the forms of actions we would normally recognize as resistance have an affective dimension. Rather, it is that the theory of affect broadens ‘resistance’ beyond the purview of the two dominant modes of analysis in sociology; namely, the study of macropolitical forms, on the one hand, and the micropolitics of everyday resistance on the other. This broadened perspective challenges the persistent assumption that ideological forms of power and resistance are the most pertinent to the contemporary world, suggesting that much power and resistance today is of a more affective nature. In making this argument, it is a Deleuzian reading of affect that is pursued, which opens up to a level of analysis beyond the common understanding of affect as emotion. I argue that an affective approach to resistance would pay attention to those barely perceptible transitions in power and mobilizations of bodily potential that operate below the conscious perceptions and subjective emotions of social actors. These affective transitions constitute a new site at which both power and resistance operate.