A word that moves me: Affect

On religion, affect, norms (including whiteness), on film and philosophy, you all should be following colleague and friend Gail Hamner’s blog; and this piece in particular is worth a close look


Our faculty colloquium this fall asked colleagues to select one word that motivates our work in religion (teaching, scholarship, or both). My word, unsurprisingly, was affect. These are my remarks:

In turning to the noun, affect, I want to foreground its forcefulness, the way this noun indexes its correlative verb–to affect and be affected, to influence and be influenced– and I want to conjoin this forcefulness with an atmospherics that curiously dis-places agency.

Consider this. Claudia Rankine opens her recent short drama, The White Card, with two images. The first is one of Robert Rauschenberg’s “White Paintings”*, this one a triptych of plain white panels, and second a photograph by Robert Longo titled “Untitled (Ferguson Police, August 13, 2014).”** The photograph is also a kind of triptych, turned horizontal to Rauschenberg’s vertical panels, with two bands of blackness on the top and bottom of the photo and a center…

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About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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2 Responses to A word that moves me: Affect

  1. Jon Awbrey says:


    Words spoken are symbols or signs (symbola) of affections or impressions (pathemata) of the soul (psyche);  written words are the signs of words spoken.  As writing, so also is speech not the same for all races of men.  But the mental affections themselves, of which these words are primarily signs (semeia), are the same for the whole of mankind, as are also the objects (pragmata) of which those affections are representations or likenesses, images, copies (homoiomata).  (De Interp. i. 16a4).

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