Autonomy-Oriented Social Movements and the Politics of Affect
MetadataShow full item record
Abstract This dissertation explores damaging tendencies that exist within autonomy-oriented activism in the West. I examine how affect shapes the way that internal conflict is approached and internal strife is dealt with in radical communities. I adopt Sara Ahmed’s proposition “that our emotions are bound up with the securing of the social hierarchy” (Ahmed, 2004b: 4) and given that autonomy-oriented practices are committed to dismantling existing hierarchies, it follows that the less oppressive social configurations sought by autonomous social movements must have different emotional underpinnings. My thesis involves applying critical theory on affect and emotion in social movements to interview data gathered from activists both currently and historically involved in autonomy-oriented social movement communities in Kingston, Ontario. I ask whether anglophone, western-based, autonomy-oriented social movements reproduced understandings of affect/emotions/feelings that underwrite the social order they are working against? I also ask, “how are our emotions conditioned by capitalism?”. The research that I engage with provides responses to these questions by pointing out how the dominant discourse on emotions in the West encourages and informs certain modes of identity production that affect the diminishing and sad practices of autonomy-oriented communities and the (re)production of oppressive practices found in the dominant order. My work critically places this psychologizing view of emotions, and its damaging effects on resistance, within the context of neoliberal capitalism. I argue that the way we understand the politics of affect is an important dimension of radical struggle, and will inform and impact upon our individual and collective capacities to respond to, and refuse to reproduce relations of control and domination. I look for an understanding of “why” and to “what extent” these determinations exists, and look for hope in a politics of affect which supports an autonomy-oriented ethic.