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Affect, Embodiment, and Sense Perception

Affect, Embodiment, and Sense Perception

Recent trends in social theory have placed great importance on affect for both analytic and political reasons, but the term is somewhat vague and ambiguous. For example, it has been described as felt bodily intensity that is: different from emotion and language; presocial, but not asocial; material or somehow pertaining to matter; dynamic and energetic; rife with possibilities to produce new and emergent phenomena.

This shorthand characterization of affect invites a number of questions. For instance: How must affect theorists understand language in order to then oppose it to felt bodily intensity? Why is affect aligned with the energetic, dynamic, and new, while emotion is cast as static, deadening, ossifying? How must both time and the social be understood such that affect is presumed to come before the social (without being nonsocial)? Finally: what is at stake in the conversations about affect, and what research and analytical tools do anthropologists possess in order to begin to address them?

The articles collected in this collection address the above qustions through different research methods and analytic objects. Significantly, they focus on how other analytic foci—namely, sense perception and embodiment—add to the field of discussion. The collection features articles by Joseph Alter, Thomas Csordas, Lochlann Jain, Eva Hayward, and Nancy Rose Hunt.


Hayward, Eva. 2010. "Fingeryeyes: Impressions of Cup Corals." Cultural Anthropology 25, no. 4: 577–599.

Hunt, Nancy Rose. 2008. "An Acoustic Register, Tenacious Images, and Congolese Scenes of Rape and Repetition." Cultural Anthropology 23, no. 2: 220–253.

Jain, S. Lochlann. 2007. "Cancer Butch." Cultural Anthropology 22, no. 4: 501–538.

Alter, Joseph S. 1993. "The Body of One Color: Indian Wrestling, the Indian State, and Utopian Somatics." Cultural Anthropology 8, no. 1: 49–72.

Csordas, Thomas J. 1993. "Somatic Modes of Attention." Cultural Anthropology 8, no. 2: 135–156.

Image Credit

 Photo by Chenthil Mohan, licensed under CC BY NC SA.


Created by Richard McGrail, Jesse Davie-Kessler, and Bascom Guffin, 2013.