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Affect as cultural critique: somatic engagements with enchantment, creativity and play 
Daniel White (University of Cambridge)
Emma Cook (Hokkaido University)
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Thursday 1 April, 11:15-12:45 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

This panel explores exercises of enchantment and play in fieldwork where affect arises as a challenge to anthropology's dominant analytics. It suggests that responsible commitments to interlocutors require attuning to affect as both a method of fieldwork and tool of disciplinary critique.

Long Abstract

What if the most responsible reply to a problematization was not the formulation of an answer but the cultivation of an affect? What if understanding unfamiliar discourses required somatic rather than semiotic exercises? Finally, where speaking from habituated perspectives of anthropological professionalism prohibits experiencing possible worlds, what if anthropology as a discipline could leverage affect to differently connect with and cultivate collaboration with others? This panel investigates encounters in fieldwork in which typical theorizations, problematizations and other conceptual frameworks brought to the field are contested not only through discursive tactics but also affective practices of feeling and doing that disrupt the anthropologist in ways that invite critique of the discipline's dominant analytics. One particularly rich area for these encounters is in the activity of creativity and play, where people actively cultivate feelings of enchantment and wonder in ways that do critical work. In contrast to classic perspectives of critical theory that view enchantment as a bemusing consequence of commodity fetishism and the culture industry, anthropological accounts of art and music, athletic and ascetic practices, virtual agents and online environments, and the variety of playful tactics employed in acts of political resistance reveal how people actively leverage material culture to the cultivation of enchantment as a practice of ethical development and critical inquiry. While one way of studying these themes is through the discursive analytics of dialog and discussion, this panel explores the possibilities and even responsibilities of exercising affect as both a method of fieldwork and tool of cultural critique.

Accepted papers: