Affective Geographies of Politics II

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Geographic Perspectives on Women Specialty Group, Political Geography Specialty Group, Cultural Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM (Eastern Standard Time)
Room: Roosevelt 5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Organizers: Banu Gokariksel, DEVRAN OCAL, Michelle Padley
Chairs: Anna Secor


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).

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Smith, S., Swanson, N. W., & Gökarıksel, B. (2016). Territory, bodies and borders. Area, 48(3), 258–261.
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Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Malene Jacobsen*, University of Kentucky, Affective Politics of Refuge: Syrian forced migrants’ narratives of state violence and war in Denmark 20 3:05 PM
Presenter Jessie Clark*, University of Nevada, Saadet Altay, Ağrı University, The role of emotions in the religious mediation of socio-political worlds for Kurdish women in Turkey 20 3:25 PM
Presenter Janina Dobrusskin*, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Ilse Helbrecht, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, The emotional significance of space: geographical imaginations of globalization in rural eastern Germany 20 3:45 PM
Presenter Linamar Campos-Flores*, , Patricia Martin, Université de Montréal, Geopolitics of Emotion: masculinities and subjectivity in the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program 20 4:05 PM
Presenter Angus Lyall*, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Affective Geographies of Oil Politics: Deception and Rage in Northern Ecuador 20 4:25 PM

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