Category Archives: Week 13

Response to Clough’s “The Affective Turn”

I struggled with this piece, feeling like I lacked a common vocabulary with the author and the theorists she presents.  I was surprised, since I thought I understood our previous class discussion on affective labor — “work to produce and reproduce life” as someone quoted this week — so I had an easier time following Clough’s couple of sections that dealt with labor, but I stuggled most with the concept of the affective body: the pre-individual, pre-emotional, indeterminate, body-not-as-organism body.

One way that I’ve tried to make sense of this is to think of the affected body, which is what I believe the theorists in Clough’s examples were studying when they investigated the automatic, non-conscious bodily reactions of pupil dilation, etc. that occur immediately in response to a stimulus, even as conscious awareness of the stimulus lags behind by a half second or so.  Is this understanding of “affectedness” compatible at all with Clough’s conception of the affective turn?  If so, how does it illustrate an idea of the body as indeterminate or non-organismic?

Hopefully the class can help me understand this material, since I feel like my questions keep spinning me in circles.

Ditmore without Ditmore (substituting Ditmore)

So, there was no Ditmore this week after all, but I tried to look up the chapter anyway. I did not succeed, but I did find some information on what it is about. Ditmore is interested in sex trafficking and according to this source writes about organized groups of sex workers in India who work together to educate and empower other sex workers in their communities, and work internally to identify and help liberate trafficked persons in their brothels. Ditmore contrasts this with an approach from police usually involving raids. I found another report Ditmore wrote on this subject (police raids) in 2009 for the Sex Workers Project. I did not read the actual report (it’s 74 pages long) but the executive summary seems to provide a good overview. One point she makes is extending the conception of “trafficking,” popularly conceived of only in relation to sex work, to a broader range of types of work including domestic labor, agricultural labor, manufacturing, and service industries. This seems to provide an interesting lens to look at migratory labor, as mentioned at the end of the notes on Mazzadra, with respect also to Pugliese and talking about anti-voluntarism of migrants — is it useful to then utilize the lens of “trafficking” when talking about that?

At least in this report, Ditmore describes her proposed course of action as centering “the needs, agency, and self-determination of trafficking survivors.” She doesn’t specifically use language about affect here but I’m sure in the piece in The Affective Turn she puts a more definite affective spin on her particular moves; maybe she is changing the types of discourses she’s utilizing based on her supposed audience for the different pieces? In any case, there is definitely still a lot here about providing affective support for sex workers and migrants in various ways, and fostering community-building.

Looking up what this piece was about made me think about a discussion some of us had earlier today (well, yesterday, now) while doing the readings. We were unconvinced by the moves/arguments being made by several of the authors about the positive biopolitical potential of affective labor, and how that would actually work. Without reading her actual piece, I wonder if maybe that is what Ditmore is trying to give an example of here? She’s talking about using these affective methods of both support and community building in order to increase the power these sex workers have in protecting their own communities, which I suppose could be looked at as a positive biopolitical affective move. Thoughts?