What role do emotions and affect play in the production of the spaces and subjects of (geo)politics? Whose affect and emotions become politically transformative, and whose are dismissed? Anger, for example, is never read as just anger, but is contingent upon the gender, racialized identity, or minoritized status of the one who expresses the anger. Sorrow and mourning may be read as powerful and moving, or as over-reaction and an unwillingness to leave violence and wrongs in the past. In other contexts, such as the “refugee crisis,” in Europe and the Middle East, emotions tangle and jostle in imagery and action: empathy calls sailors to pull migrants from the sea, and the image of Alan Kurdi haunts policy discussions -- simultaneously, fear and anxiety are stoked and linked to gendered notions of the nation, such as in the portrayal of migrants from Muslim majority countries as hordes of rapists (Secor, 2018; de Genova, 2017; Herbert and Gokariksel, 2018).
Which emotions are or can be expressed, where, how, and with what effects? Gendered and embodied emotions are tipping the political scales on issues from sexual assault to intensifying xenophobia. Feminists point to women’s anger --not silenced anymore but publicly visible- as driving the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and reproductive rights movements in Argentina and Poland and Black women to run for office in Brazil and the US (Caldwell, 2018; Traister, 2018). Yet, Dr. Elizabeth Blasey Ford, who accuses the US Supreme Court then-nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her could be perceived as credible by politicians and pundits only through her calmness, apologies, apparent vulnerability, and cooperative demeanor against Kavanaugh’s rage during the Senate Judiciary Hearing on 27 September 2018. The dismissal of Anita Hill’s similarly calm, composed, and articulate testimony against the then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991 reveals how Blackness matters in judgements of credibility as well. More broadly, populist political leaders across the world (e.g. Erdogan in Turkey, Modi in India, Trump in the US) fuel fears and anxieties about ethnic, racial, migrant, religious, gendered, and sexual “others” (Gökarıksel & Smith, 2016; Steinberg et al, 2018) while channeling love, care, and devotion to the nation and the communities they purport to protect.
Emotions are central to politics today as they have always been; they do crucial political work (Ahmed 2004). We approach affect as constitutive of the architecture of the political field, and are interested in exploring how affective politics matter in producing racialized, gendered, sexual, and religiously inflected divisions and power differentials. We see this politics at work when the anger of the disenfranchised is read as righteous or dangerous depending on structured relations; hence, Black Lives Matter activists in Ferguson and young people throwing rocks at the Israeli Defense Force are read quite differently from descriptions of the (white) working class voters who are evoked to explain the rise of Trump (see Anderson, 2016).
Our approach to the affective constitution of politics builds on feminist political geography and feminist geopolitics to examine how emotions and the ways they are read and can be expressed produce social difference and structure gendered, racialized power relations. Feminist political geography has shifted our attention to the everyday, embodied, and affective practices and processes that not only materialize but also produce states, political ideology, and geopolitical strategy (Dixon & Marston, 2011; Dowler & Sharp, 2001; Massaro & Williams, 2013). Expanding the terrain to include intimate and affective (geo)politics, this research has examined emotions like fear, love, hatred, pain, anxiety and suffering in the making of borders, territory, and geopolitics (Laketa, 2016; Marshall, 2014; Pain and Smith, 2008; Gokariksel and Secor, forthcoming; Smith 2012; Smith, Swanson, & Gökarıksel, 2016; a forthcoming special issue of Environment and Planning C).
Ahmed, S. (2004). The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Anderson, Carol. 2016. White Rage: The unspoken truth of our racial divide. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
Caldwell, K. (2018). “Sexism, racism drive more black women to run for office in both Brazil and the US,” Chicago Tribune, October 4, http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-sexism-racism-drive-black-women-to-run-for-office-in-both-brazil-and-us-104208-20181004-story.html
de Genova, N. (2017). Introduction. In Nicholas de Genova ed. The Borders of Europe: Autonomy of Migration, Tactics of Bordering.
Dixon, D. P., & Marston, S. a. (2011). Introduction: Feminist engagements with geopolitics. Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, 18(4), 445–453. https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2011.583401
Gökarıksel, B. & Secor, A. (Forthcoming). Affective geopolitics: Anxiety, pain, and ethics in the encounter with Syrian refugees in Turkey. Environment and Planning C
Gökarıksel, B., & Smith, S. (2016). “Making America great again”?: The fascist body politics of Donald Trump. Political Geography, 2015–2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2016.07.004
Herbert, L & Gokariksel, B (2018). ’Foreign infiltration’: Construction of the refugee as threat in contemporary German mass and social media. American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting, April, New Orleans.
Laketa S (2016) Geopolitics of affect and emotions in a post-conflict city. Geopolitics DOI: 10.1080/14650045.2016.1141765
Marshall, D. J. (2014). Love stories of the occupation: storytelling and the counter‐geopolitics of intimacy. Area, 46(4), 349-351.
Massaro, V. A., & Williams, J. (2013). Feminist geopolitics. Geography Compass, 7(8), 567–577. https://doi.org/10.1111/gec3.12054
Pain, R. and Smith, S. (2008). Fear: Critical Geopolitics and Everyday Life. Ashgate.
Secor, A. (2018). “I Love Death”: War in Syria and the Anxiety of the Other. In Ilan Kapoor ed. Psychoanalysis and the Global. University of Nebraska Press.
Smith, S. (2012). Intimate Geopolitics: Religion, Marriage, and Reproductive Bodies in Leh, Ladakh. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102(6), 1511–1528. https://doi.org/10.1080/00045608.2012.660391
Smith, S., Swanson, N. W., & Gökarıksel, B. (2016). Territory, bodies and borders. Area, 48(3), 258–261. https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12247
Steinberg, P., Page, S., Dittmer, J., Gökarıksel, B., Smith, S., Ingram, A., & Koch, N. (2018) “Reassessing the Trump Presidency, One Year On.” Invited essay, “Tiny hands, tiki torches: Embodied white male supremacy and its politics of exclusion,” Political Geography, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2017.10.010
Traister, R. (2018). Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. Simon & Schuster
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