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Affect Studies and Social Relations

What are some of the common threads of this new front called, perhaps tediously creating another academic neologism, Affect Studies? In one sense, a new form of social relations is the basis of all discussions of affect. Whether the term is used to describe labor shifts or biopolitics, theorists of affect frame the affective element as a new relationality among bodies.

The practical deployment of Spinoza’s affective relationality takes very different forms in the recent theories of affect. Theresa Brennan, perhaps the most radical example, speaks about entrainment as a physiological basis for the social experience. In a word: it’s pheromones. One thing Brennan does to (perhaps for) the social is to dismantle the cultural frame of social belief. This challenges a notion of rhetoric as epistemic, since the basis of social knowledge is the body. More preceively, it’s bodies-in-relation. Here we arrive at the “transmission” of affect, or Brennan’s take on sociality through affective contagion.