Modinet - Center for
Medier og Demokrati
2300 København S
"Affective cities: New faces of the politics of creativity"
Professor Nigel Thrift, University of Oxford , Head of the Life and Environmental Sciences Division
In this paper I want to think about affect in cities and about affective cities, and about what the political consequences of thinking more explicitly about these topics might be once it is accepted that the 'political decision is itself produced by a series of inhuman or pre-subjective forces and intensities' (Spinks, 2001, p24). My aims will be threefold: to discuss the nature of affect, to show some of the ways in which cities and affect interact to produce a politics which cannot be reduced to simply a shifting field of communal self-reflection or the neat conceptual economy of an ideology, and to produce the beginnings of a synoptic commentary. Accordingly, in the first part of the paper, I will describe some of the different positions that have been taken on what the nature of affect actually is. Given the vast possible agenda, this has meant pulling out four key traditions rather than providing a complete review. This work of definition over, in the second part of the paper I will then describe the diverse ways in which affect is gradually changing what we regard as the sphere of 'the political'. The first development is that politics is moving away from old forms, opening up new spaces in which affect can thrive. Second, politics is becoming more performative, chiefly as a result of the rise of the media. Third, the content of politics is increasingly migrating into non-discursive, pre-cognitive registers where affect can thrive. Fourth, the expression of politics is becoming increasingly and knowingly caught up with the design of space. In the next part of the paper, I will focus more explicitly on the way in which these developments are changing what we can think of as both politics and 'the political', using the four traditions that I have previously outlined. I will argue that the move to affect shows up new political registers and intensities, and allows us to work on them to brew new collectives in ways which at least have the potential to be progressive. Then, in the penultimate part of the paper, I will briefly consider in more detail some of the kinds of progressive political interventions into affect that might legitimately be made, using the ideas stimulated by recent work on video art and, most notably, the work of Bill Viola. Finally, I present some brief conclusions which argue that the current experiments with a 'cosmopolitics' of new kinds of encounter and conviviality must include affect.