A long-held assumption in the social sciences has been that economic projects conflict with intimate, affective relationships in ways that render public and private spheres opposite to one another. Viewed as "individual" or "private," emotions –sometimes used interchangeably with terms like feelings or sentiments-- were seen as associated merely with the realm of an inner world, constructed as the opposite of reason, and thus inaccessible to social scientific inquiry. More recently, as the concept of affect has gained increased attention in several of the social sciences and humanities, scholars have used this concept to articulate new ways for thinking about power, inequality, and social relations more broadly.

The "Economies of Affect" working group brings together scholars from a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields. The organizing concept "economies of affect" intends to highlight relations of power and inequality, aspects of state formation and imperial and colonial relations, distinct class, racial, and gender locations, and concerns with sexuality and racialization practices. We are particularly interested in approaches that are empirically grounded and concerned with issues of social justice, inequality, and power.

The working group will run during the AY 2011/12 as a combination of workshop, reading group, and guest lecture series. Presenters will circulate their work in advance and receive comments from the rest of the group. We envision this working group as a first step in the development of a multi-year collaborative project that may include a conference, public lectures, publications, and joint research grant proposals.

Some themes to be explored include:

  • The place of affect in colonial contexts, nation-building projects, markets, and transnational and global movements.
  • The role of affect in the production of racialized and sexualized subjects
  • Affect and the production of personhood in cases where personhood becomes uncertain, questionable, or under siege within unevenly distributed fields of power.
  • Examinations of how affect may shape and/or be shaped by neoliberal economic practices.
  • Sentiments as criteria for knowledge production, conceptions of civility, production and sustenance of social hierarchies, and access to personal aspiration and citizenship.
  • Possible legal, social, and political consequences of the manifestation, articulation, and disciplining of emotions..


Ana Ramos-Zayas
Professor, Baruch College-CUNY
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Ulla D. Berg
Professor, Rutgers University
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The working group will meet on selected Fridays from 10-12 and lunch, five times a semester during the AY 2011-2012. The location of the meetings will alternate between the campuses of CUNY-Baruch College and Rutgers-New Brunswick. At Rutgers, meetings will be held in the Seminar Room of the Center for Cultural Analysis (CCA), 8 Bishop Place, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8530. The CCA is within walking distance from the train station in New Brunswick. Take the NJ transit from Penn Station. At Baruch-CUNY, meetings will be held in the Department of Black and Latino Studies. More precise location and directions will be announced prior to the first meeting at Baruch.