Affective and aesthetic atmospheres as ideological play-spheres: the making of the heroic Indian entrepreneur-philanthropists in design studios
(Oslo Metropolitan University)
Paper short abstract:
Grounded in ethnographic fieldwork in urban north India among fashion designers and their business elite clientele, the paper investigates both the practical and theoretical role of atmospheres at the intersection of ideology, illusion, play, commerce and ethics.
Paper long abstract:
Designer studios of India's leading fashion designers are described by their elite clients as out of this world. Intoxicating, seductive and enchanting, these lavishly designed studios become theatrical stage sets for highly ritualized interactions between the guru-like figure of a designer and his/her client/disciple. Luxury spaces appear as perfect cases of both aesthetic pleasure and manipulation through atmospheres. The paper introduces several ideotypical cases of interaction within these atmospheres, showing the importance of the atmospheric realm, to which I ascribe, together with Gernot Böhme, the level of Wirklichkeit (as opposed to Realität), and pushing our thinking through atmospheres further. In particular, the paper focuses on the affective enactments of the popular ideology of 'ethical and socially responsible business' and of designers' desire to position themselves as patriotic entrepreneur-philanthropists, who sell not only spectacular garments, but also the feeling of doing and being 'good', thus in the end effectively designing 'interpassive virtue'. By utilizing the ambiguous figure of the craftsman, both celebrated as the source par excellence of Indianness and despised as social malaise, the designers theatrically manufacture themselves within the affectively charged space of the studio (and other staged events), as the new Indian heroic figures, following the currently popular ideological line of thought in which business is positioned as the only thinkable solution to social problems. The paper builds on John Huizinga's theory of play, Slavoj Žižek's and Robert Pfaller's theory of interpassivity, while further developing my own anthropological theory of atmospheres, proposed in my doctoral thesis.
Exploring 'atmospheres': an anthropological approach?