Knudsen, Britta Timm & Carsten Stage. Introduction: Affective Methodologies

[proper citation pending arrival of hard copy]

To remember:

  • We define an affective method as an innovative strategy for (1) asking research questions and formulating research agendas relating to affec- tive processes, for (2) collecting or producing embodied data and for (3) making sense of this data in order to produce academic knowledge. [We] begin experimenting with how these categories can be used and reinterpreted in inventive ways in order to engage with the immaterial and affective processes of social life (1).

  • a key interest is how to map the flux and flows of the social in ways that trace ‘what is impossible, what becomes stuck and fixed’ (2).

  • there is a need to (re)consider the relevance of method…to the empirical investigation of the here and now, the contemporary … and to develop methods that ‘enable the happening of the social world – its ongoingness, relationality, contingency and sensuousness – to be investigated’ (2).

  • the goal is to develop new ways of being attentive to empirical material and develop ‘other ways of “noticing” and attending within our research endeavors’ (2).

  • the development of methodologies for affect research should be regarded as an interesting zone of inventiveness, a zone raising reflections about what ‘the empirical’ produced tells us about the world and about the research setting, and a zone allowing us to generate new types of empirical material and perhaps to collect material that has previously been perceived as banal or unsophisticated (e.g., online comments, tag clouds, viewing statistics, notes, or accounts of the researcher’s bodily states) (3).

  • meta-strategies:

    (1) the creation of inventive experimental milieus, (2) the rethinking of traditional fieldwork techniques such as observations and field notes, (3) the collection of often- overlooked forms of existing textual material or development of new approaches to texts and writing in order to grasp their affective dimensions (3).

  • possible strategies for describing the presence of affectivity in relation to this material (e.g., via rhythm, ruptures, content, body language and assembling) (3).

  • increasingly ‘intensive’ culture – fuelled by the dissemination of global, hypercomplex and multisensual spaces, media and everyday practices (3-4).

  • one can detect ‘a significant “split” in theories of [affect] in terms of whether [affects] are tied primarily to bodily sensations or to cognition’ (4).

  • prominent contemporary affect theorists such as Massumi, Thrift, Brennan and Clough, focus more on affect as an outside stimulation, somehow hitting first the body and then reaching the cognitive apparatus … affect is beyond language categorization, and therefore, any analytical strategy must focus on semantics and semiotics as distorted traces of affect, not a medium for it (4).

  • OR: Another group, consisting of Ahmed herself, Ruth Leys, Margaret Wetherell, Judith Butler and Lisa Blackman, criticize the inherent dichotomies of mind and matter, body and cognition, biology and culture, the physical and psychological … language would be considered capable of expressing affects, as there would be no inherent contradiction between the categories of language and the categories taking part in the social shaping of bodies, so they become emotionally sensitive to certain stimulations (4).

  • Most affect theorists … agree that affects travel between (human and non-human) bodies and are experienced subjectively, and that they are often perceived as surprising or somehow beyond the will and conscious intentionality of the affected body (5).

  • research questions about affect become increasingly more answerable if they are concretely linked to specific bodies (for instance, the researcher’s own body) in specific (and empirically approachable) social contexts … Asking research questions with a strong situational specificity is, in other words, the first necessary step towards empirically grounding the analysis of affective processes (5).

  • focusing on localized and ‘situated knowledge’ could provide a way to simultaneously acknowledge the researchers’ intertwinement with the knowledge produced and the dimensions of the situation that are outside the researchers control – and therefore support the idea that ‘faithful knowledge can be imagined and can make claims on us’ (5).

  • We do not create the world we investigate, according to Haraway, but establish a ‘conversation’ with it … the situation can answer back and contribute to this interaction (6).

  • Perhaps a solution is to try to complicate the dichotomy between doing something to the world and investigating it (6).

  • Lury & Wakeford’s inventive methods: found in the relation between two moments: the addressing of a method – an anec- dote, a probe, a category – to a specific problem, and the capacity of what emerges in the use of that method to change the problem (6).
  • consider this as an action-oriented research agenda, which aims to answer to problems through the methods deployed … by trying to actually intervene in social contexts … [or] changing the academic and/or public perception of the problem and perhaps our ability to intervene in new ways [methods for change or methods for understanding (6).

  • produce self- reflexive knowledge in relation to and across various social situations … created in the tension between (1) the attempt to create knowledge about situ- ations via empirical observations, and possibly generalize the results via cross-situational research, and (2) the constant destabilization of this knowledge production, due to the researcher’s focus on the performativity of cultural research practices (7).

  • An affective methodology must consider both how to get the right material to address the research interest and how to analytically approach it via concepts that may be used to identify the presence and cultural meaning of affective forces … personal field diary, as opposed to more structured field notes, could be a valuable source of knowledge … coding data … to dwell at the moments where the data ‘glows’ or becomes affectively involving (7).

  • two categories of embodied-affective data: (1) firsthand data that is indexically linked to the body in affect (e.g., texts or images produced by the affected person), which can be produced either in the heat of the moment (e.g., commenting on YouTube), in situ (such as in the case of Waterton’s and Watson’s text on methods in motion) or remembered (e.g., in a letter about the affect experienced), and (2) secondhand data documenting experiences of bodily affectivity (e.g., video documentations) (8).

  • embodied data can be either emic – produced by the affected body itself or etic – produced by an outside observer (8).

  • important analytical concepts: the rhythms of bodies, practices and texts become important for identification of affective peaks … ruptures of normal discourse could be used to identify affectivity as bodily gestures of being … emotional recollection of previous bodily states of affect or spatial atmospheres, and practices of sticking certain affects/emotions to certain object/bodies – thereby creating ‘object/subject/ affect-assemblages’ – could also prove to be a viable analytical approach …

    processes of collective contamination where certain affects travel to produce affective patterns such as the collective hyping or debunking of certain subjects (9).

  • for grief work: media circulation is likewise rhythmic and displayed in patterns of repetition, condensation and dilution (e.g., viral hyping) (Stage, 2013; Sampson, 2012; Gibbs, 2008; Knudsen and Stage, 2015) (9).

  • The terms for the collectivity produced at these sites could be many: the mobile mob, mindless bodies, one-as-many and many-as-one, swarms, viral or memetic collectives and crowds (9).

  • five often-intertwined analytical strategies for tracing the presence of affective forces: formal or stylistic characteristics of communication in affect … the intense building of assemblages … non-verbal language and gestures of affected bodies … communicative content about experienced or attributed affect … the rhythmic intensification, entrainment (through a common pulse) or destabilization of affective energy (10).

  • 3 ‘meta-strategies’: The inventive experiment, Embodying fieldwork, The collection/production of affective textualities (12).
  • ‘rhythmic materialism’ (Julian Henriques) (11)
  • ethnographic field notes display the researcher as a moved body that, through a certain writing style, moves other bodies (12).

  • for grief project: [view] as a global networked assemblage and explores the consequences of what the shift from artwork to network assemblages means when we study affect. Reestorff suggests that affect is at play in the way the network materializes and in the relations between nodes in the network … [analysis of] dissemination, imitation, the glue-like character of the in-between-ness of the nodes in the network, as well as at stasis and rupture in the network formation, as inherent expressions of affect (13).

  • investigating the dissemination and attunement of affects, affective resonance with the (re)presented world, and how texts express orality in writing through rhythm(13).

  • In order to characterize the essence of the experimental method, we can make use of the concepts of force, assemblage, montage and encounters with forces and how they affect us (15).

  • grief: affective aesthetics beginning with the indexical character of the image’s punctum (its immediate effect on a viewing body) [Barthes], over haptics in cinema [Marks, Paterson] and other instances in which the interface between bodies and technologies become intertwined. Additionally, visual anthropological methods allow consideration of possible social and political impacts of images as events mediated via social networks and these events’ socio-aesthetic qualities [Grusin, Panagia] (16).

  • With mobile media data collection, the visual data becomes very closely linked to embodied experiences and therefore offers the potential to develop knowledge of affective realms and the micro-perceptual shocks that move bodies (16).

  • Visual anthropology is, therefore, not solely a matter of documenting the Other’s culture, but can be a shared anthropological praxis in which informants are collaborators and various processes of feedback guar- antee reflection, engagement and transformation … bodily automatisms … kinds of imitation, and emulations … they seem to work parallel to or beneath schemes of identification (16).

  • feeling of academic ‘uncertainty’ in relation to her own research practice: Can knowledge production become too local and subjective and thus signal a leap backwards from the desire to produce evidence-based knowledge to the less ambitious desire to produce knowledge about the researcher and his/her desire? Or does it, on the contrary, acknowledge the fact that we need to use and be honest about our own bodily involvements and reactions as a part of affective research, instead of covering it up and trying to disguise the fact that researchers also have bodies with a capacity to be affected? (17)

  • grief, on reading for affect: Möhring Reestorff proposes to look at the spreadability and growing of an assemblage as a result of affective investment; Kölvraa suggests a reading of formal excesses in relation to contemporary discussion about Islam in Denmark. Gibbs proposes a whole method – not for reading – but for affective writing, highlighting transmissions between texts, resonance between text and world, and rhythmic orality as traces of bodies in texts (18).
  • grief (revisit this nugget, for sure!) use texts as nodes, mapping how affect travels across geographical distances or between different online sites and perhaps how it clusters around certain sites, creating affective communities or crowds (e.g., in relation to RIP pages, illness blogs, etc.) (Stage, 2013) (18).

  • the intertextual relations between controversial primary audio-visual texts (e.g., a YouTube video) and tertiary texts (e.g., comments below the video) (Fiske, 1987) would be of interest to the textual analysis focusing on affectivity as a force destabilizing traditional everyday communication (19).


  • How can this inform my current projects? Look especially to Reestorff, Kölvraa, Gibbs, Stage.
  • “new textualities” and Benjamin’s “texxture”
  • Revisit this entire piece

To consume:

  • Patricia Clough, Introduction, The Affective Turn
  • Nigel Thrift, Non-Representational Theory
  • Teresa Brennan, The Transmission of Affect
  • Massumi, Parables for the Virtual
  • Lisa Blackman. “Affect”, Immaterial Bodies
  • Margaret Wetherell, Affect and Emotion
  • Ruth Leys, “The Turn to Affect: A Critique”
  • Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion
  • John Law, After Method
  • Les Back and Nirma Puwar, Live Methods
  • Rebecca Coleman and Jessica Ringrose, Deleuze and Research Methodologies
  • Rebecca Coleman, “The Becoming of Bodies”, “A Method of Intuition: Becoming, Relationality, Ethics”
  • Jamie Lorimer, “Affect in Human-Nonhuman Interactions”
  • Anna Hickey-Moody, “Affect as Method: Feelings, Aesthetics, Pedagogy”
  • Stephanie Springgay, “The Ethico-Aesthetics of affect and sensation”
  • Gerda Roelvink, “Collective Action and the Politics of Affect”
  • Rebecca Coleman & MM Figueroa, “Past and Future Perfect? Beauty, Affect and Hope”
  • Henri Bergson, method of intuition
  • Celia Lury & Nina Wakeford, Inventive Methods: The Happening of the Social
  • Lisa Blackman and Couze Venn, “Affect”
  • Michel Fouccault, biopower
  • Richard Grusin, “Premediation: Affect and Mediality After 9/11”
  • John Protevi, Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic
  • Britta Timm Knudsen & Carsten Stage, “Contagious Bodies: An Investigation of

    Affective And Discursive Strategies In Contemporary Online Activism”, “Online War Memorials”, Global Media, Biopolitics and Affect: Politicising Bodily Vulnerability

  • Elena Trivelli, ‘Exploring a “Remembering Crisis”’
  • Anna Gibbs, “Panic! Affect Contagion, Mimesis and Suggestion in the Social


  • Donna Haraway, “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and

    the Privilege of Partial Perspective”

  • Samantha Punch, “Hidden Struggles of Fieldwork: Exploring the Role and Use of

    Field Diaries”

  • Maggie MacLure, “Classification or Wonder? Coding as an Analytic Practice in

    Qualitative Research”

  • Valerie Walkerdine, “Communal Beingness and Affect: An Exploration of

    Trauma in an Ex-Industrial Community”

  • Julian Henriques, “The Vibrations of Affect and Their Propagation on a Night

    Out on Kingston’s Dancehall Scene”

  • Noortje Marres, “The Experiment in Living”
  • Jette Kofoed & Jessica Ringrose, “Travelling and Sticky Affects: Exploring Teens

    and Sexualized Cyberbullying through a Butlerian-Deleuzian-Guattarian Lens”

  • Tim Edensor, “The Ghosts of Industrial Ruins: Ordering and Disordering Memory in Excessive Space”
  • Jenny Sundén, “Desires at Play: On Closeness and Epistemological Uncertainy”
  • Charlotte Baarts, “Autoetnografi”
  • Christoffer Kölvraa, “Ideology and the Crowd”

  • Isabelle Stengers, “Experimenting with Refrains: Subjectivity and the Challenge

    of Escaping Modern Dualism”

  • Martin Jay, Songs of Experience
  • Tonya Davidson, Ecologies of Affect. Placing Nostalgia, Desire, and Hope
  • Ben Anderson & Paul Harrison, Taking-Place: Non-Representational Theories and Geography
  • Sarah Pink, Doing Sensory Ethnography
  • Laura Marks, The Skin of the Film
  • Mark Paterson, The Senses of Touch
  • Davide Panagia, The Political Life of Sensation
  • Ann Game, “Riding: Embodying the Centaur”
  • John Fiske, Television Culture
  • Daniel Stern, The Interpersonal World of the Infant: A View from Psychoanalysis

    and Developmental Psychology

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