Following up on my earlier post on Ruth Leys’ new book, The Ascent of Affect, Walter Benn Michaels has alerted to me to a new essay, published just yesterday, in which he clearly articulates some of the conceptual distinctions between experience, meaning, and intention that are central to what I dubbed the “nonsite school” approach to issues of affect and aesthetics.
Shameless self-promotion time again: I have a paper out in the latest issue of the online humanities journal, nonsite.org. The issue as a whole is on the theme of Situation. My paper is entitled On Problematization: Elaborations on a theme in “late Foucault”. It’s an experiment in seeing how much mileage along the path of developing useable social science concepts you can get out of a few passing remarks from a master-thinker . Here is the abstract:
“The notion of problematization has recently been identified as a key to interpreting the arc of Michel Foucault’s work. In the social sciences as well as in the humanities, problematization is often invoked to support a method of critical debunking. I argue that a more nuanced reading of elaborations of this notion by Foucault and others points to an alternative interpretation. This alternative turns on appreciating that problematizations are best thought of as creative responses to uncertain situations, an idea presented by Foucault in an account of the plural rationalities of ethical action. It is argued that to fully realize the potential of the idea of problematization, some of the founding assumptions and manoeuvres of critical social analysis need to be interrupted. The notion lends itself to an understanding of the inherent problematicity of all action, and therefore to a more modest understanding of the tasks of social inquiry.”
The new issue of nonsite.org contains essays by Ruth Leys, Michael Fried and Robert Pippin, amongst other things, and focusses on “the relation between our agency–our actions, or emotions, our character–and our experience–of the world, of ourselves, of each other.” It also ‘reprints’ Todd Cronan’s review of affect theory.
“nonsite.org emerges in part out of interest in a set of theoretical topics – the ontology of the work of art, the question of intentionality, the ongoing appeal of different and sometimes competing materialisms – and in part out of opposition to the dominant accounts of those topics”.
I think the focus on intentionality is particularly interesting – a future issue is promised on this topic.