Gibbs, Anna. “After Affect”

Gibbs, Anna. “After Affect: Sympathy, Synchrony, and Mimetic Communication.” The Affect Theory Reader. Ed. Melissa Gregg and Gregory J. Seigworth. Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2010. 186-205. Print.

Moments to remember:

  • “mimetic communication [:] … the corporeally based forms of imitation, both voluntary and involuntary … involv[ing] the visceral level of affect contagion … producing a tendency for those involved ‘to converge emotionally'” (186).
  • “affect contagion [:] … the bioneurological means by which particular affects are transmitted from body to body … communicated rapidly and automatically via the face as well as the voice” (187).
  • Tomkins’ affect assumption: “‘not private obscure internal intestinal responses, but facial responses that communicate and motivate at once, both publicly outward to the other and backward and inward to the one who smiles or cries or frowns or sneers or otherwise expresses his affects’ (Tomkins 1966, vii)” (191).
  • Benjamin’s “nonsensuous similarity[:] … tied to senses but lacking in sense content … directly perceived – but only in feeling” (193).
  • Massumi’s “vitality affect[:] … amodal; … can ‘jump not just between situations, but also between sense modes,’ producing ‘nonlocal’ correspondences in which forms appear as ‘the sensuous traces of amodal linkage'” (193) as precise description of the work of mimesis.
  • “Mimicry is not a representation of the other, but a rendering – a relation between things in ‘which, like a flash, similarity appears’ (Foucault 1973, 24)” (193).
  • Meltzoff&Moore (of infants) “the other is at some level ‘like me’ … The cross-modal knowledge of what it feels like to do the act seen provides a privileged access to people not afforded by things” (196).


  • is there (can there be) a visceral engagement in digital emoting? memetic communication with emojis? or does digital emoting create a gap/void/substitute/filter rather than effective affective conduit?
  • how does affect contagion operate when further mediated (fingers -> key -> screen -> face -> finger -> screen -> face vs face-to-face)? or does it become something else?
  • if mimetic is the most primitive (and earliest) form of knowledge of self/other, is there a connection to when/why/in what situation humans mimic as adults? (unfamiliar, uncomfortable, etc.)?

To consume: more Benjamin, Foucault, Massumi, and Gibbs

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