Notes from week 3, Ahmed and Reber

August 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Reber uses a foucauldian analysis of the function of affect, making it difficult for many of us to recognise an argument in her paper: the argument is in the methodology. She describes the current affective episteme (though aware of episteme being caught up in rationality), as currently hegemonic, “in which there is neither formal empire nor formal colony, but rather [an] all-encompassing systemic immanence”. This immanence (drawing on Spinoza) is compared with that of the Quaker system: God resides inside everyone, aka, the inner light, requiring no exogenous religious activity. The body, the soma, affects, replace the role of rationality, reason, the head. Free-market capitalism (or “liberal democracy”) is guided by an invisible hand, pursuing a homeostatic logic for capitalism. This does not imply that capital is not still exploitative of humans and the natural environment, but rather it stabilises within capital.

Ahmed begins with unpacking ‘happiness’, drawing on Aristotle’s ethics: the pursuit of happiness is the ethical mode of existence. Here, she illustrates that the ‘good life’ is not unfettered pleasure, rather pleasure that is derived from fulfilling social norms. She describes the kill joy feminist (vs. the ‘happy housewife’), and the bitterness of the oppressed, who in their not appearing cheerful are exposed as “mean, bitter, angry, dangerous” (i.e. lumpen). And in Queer literature, in which the parents are often unhappy about their child’s life decision because they are afraid it will bring them unhappiness, as they will not be able to live ‘fulfilling’ lives producing their very own nuclear family.

The ethical person, who lives the ‘good life’ in pursuit of happiness, exists as a functional member of the state (or dominant ideology). The happy person is a good heteronormative, nationalist consumer.

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