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Background affects: theorising the indebted ordinary

Authors: Leila Dawney*, University of Exeter
Topics: Cultural Geography, Economic Geography, Political Geography
Keywords: affect, dissociation, experience, debt, austerity
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The paper argues that the affective architecture of debt operates just as much through moments of intensity – the letter of default, the pressure cooker of an advice session – as through a background hum in which individuals are engaged in ongoing practices of self-assessment, despair, desire and satisfaction. Drawing on in-depth interviews with indebted subjects, this paper investigates contemporary financial subjectivities through such forms of affective modulation that “run in the background”. In addition to those moments of intensity, it argues that indebted lives are composed through low-level affective states that include hypervigilance, dissociation and anxiety. It examines the deep entanglements of people, technologies and objects that produce these affective states, highlighting relations of obligation and codependency, and the forms of vigilance and anxiety these relations create.

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