EVENT Oct 12
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Affect: Promises/Impasses/Threats/Settlings

Lancaster, PA
Organization: Society for the Study of Affect
Categories: Digital Humanities, Comparative, Interdisciplinary, Popular Culture, Gender & Sexuality, Literary Theory, Rhetoric & Composition, Aesthetics, Anthropology/Sociology, Classical Studies, Cultural Studies, Environmental Studies, Film, TV, & Media, Food Studies, History, Philosophy
Event Date: 2024-10-12 to 2024-10-14 Abstract Due: 2024-04-15

So much has transpired in the nine years since the #AffectWTF conference (Oct 14 to 17, 2015). The study of affect has, by now, variously settled/?unsettled within and across a diverse range of academic disciplines, artistic practices, and research approaches. And in the nine years since #AffectWTF, so much has been settling and unsettling—with different rhythms and thicknesses—around the globe: including, it goes without saying, the ongoing resettings and upsettings of settler colonialisms in multiple shapes/forms but also emergent AI, insurgent fascisms, resurgent misogyny/?transphobia?/homophobia/?racial and ethnic hatreds, unimpeded climate catastrophe, multi-headed crises in the academy and within the arts and humanities in general, the surging of plutocracies and kleptocracies as the gap between rich and poor grows increasingly divergent, and (too much) more. It is worth noting too that the US Presidential election takes place less than a month after this conference, and Pennsylvania, as one of about a half-dozen key "battleground" states, is going to be front-and-center in whatever electoral shenanigans are underway. So, yeah: come to Lancaster, PA for the Society for the Study of Affect Conference October 12 to 14. It is going to be the PITS.

Located in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the conference event will take place at Millersville University’s Ware Center and at an entertainment venue called Tellus 360. This setting will provide a truly intimate and distinctive opportunity to engage in-depth and at length in discussions about the past, present and future state(s) of affect study.


We seem to be falling further into calamity at every turn. Are some pits bottomless? There seems little room for "promises" right now but—you know—the study of affect is often understood as perpetually holding out some sliver of hope that sad affects can be actively transformed into something collective, something that might counter the current state of affairs. Where might we find/?create/?conceptualize/?enact the space-time of the "promise" in all that surrounds us?

Unlike promises though, impasses are seemingly everywhere today. Lauren Berlant considered impasses a kind of "dogpaddling in the meanwhile": a lateral space-time for gathering one’s senses and feeling out infrastructures of connection, for assessing action or for falling into lassitude, for too often settling (dogpaddling long-term) when the inconvenience of unsettling the impasse feels too unbearable/?unimaginable. But perhaps some room can be given to turning the tables? Can we send systems of power, historical developments, and dystopian futures into the PITS? How might we direct seemingly inevitable dark futures into an impasse?

Threats, as ever, come from every direction, expected and unexpected, known and unknown: the old-fashioned and new-fangled predations of capital, the toxicity of certain social media platforms (oh hey there X), fascisms (major and micro-), ecological collapse and species extinction, the unfathomable barbarism of contemporary wars and reigns of terror, now-and-future worldwide pandemics with their attendant refusals and resistances to science/?medicine/?bio-governmentality. In the case of threats, the rising and falling of affect transpires along all the lines and ruptures of filiation and disaffiliation. Positive affects, negative affects, mixed affects, whatever affects—there is no way around or through threats without engaging with the tangle of affects in their midst.

Finally, settlings—which can just as readily be unsettlings—are meant to signal how affect sediments, how it sticks or clings to the contexts and histories of encounter. The supposed presentism or immediacy of affect is sometimes criticized (not always fairly) for missing or bypassing the longer/?historical, more material, more necessarily distanced space for fully cognized political perspectives and critique. Is affect theory—particularly in relation to any of the calamities and catastrophes mentioned above—bound to regularly fall into relative apolitical quietude? Is the study of affect more prone to settling (settling-in) during those everyday-ordinary moments (and in the face of world-altering events) when unsettling is also on the table as a mode of engagement, of a more "properly" politicized action? But then turning this particular table around, what kind of challenges can we—whoever, whatever we are—issue to/?from the stubborn and sticky? Can resistance, affirmative politics, efforts toward an otherwise already here and now find ways to settle into a groove and snowball?

We encourage direct participation in the creation and flow of our conference’s conversations around PROMISES/?IMPASSES/?THREATS/?SETTLINGS through the submission of "stream" proposals. A stream proposal submission from a single person, duo, or trio (no more than three!) identifies and expands upon a specific theme related to affect/?theories of affect in conjunction with our #PITS theme that will, ideally, become a set of conference panels of three to four panelists each. The issues and engagements that serve as a stream’s central concerns should be clearly framed and conceived in a way that encourages—as much as possible—potential participation from different academic disciplines. The stream proposal should include a list of topics and sub-topics that would fit under its broad framework.

Stream proposals should be no more than 500 words in length and must be submitted by email no later than Monday, April 15. Acceptance of stream proposals will be communicated by April 22.




Mathew Arthur