EP3: Movement, Affect, Sensation: Discussing Brian Massumi’s Experimental Writing


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By Ryan Leack & Ellen Wayland-Smith, Ryan Leack, and Ellen Wayland-Smith. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In this episode we discuss Brian Massumi’s “Concrete Is as Concrete Doesn’t,” the introduction to his book Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (2005). Among the (un)timely topics we explore are the nature of embodied movement as it affects and effects our subject positions, and how those positions can seem “gridlocked” when we retroactively pinpoint a “self” at the intersection of race, gender, and class identities. How do we acknowledge the strategic importance of such positions while not being captured by them? How can movement, affect, and sensation bring attention to the body in productive ways? How do we avoid the “cultural freeze-frame” of an identity politics that threatens to solidify certain identity constructions? Furthermore, how might field-friendly concepts from the sciences facilitate a more comprehensive and generative sense of embodied movement vis-à-vis becoming? In that effort, how do we “poach” scientific concepts without reducing them to mere metaphors? Finally, and perhaps most importantly for our podcast, how does Massumi’s experimental writing perform the very trans-disciplinary and radical empiricist philosophy that he encourages, thereby bringing movement, affect, and sensation to the writing process itself?

Ryan Leack
Meridith Kruse
Sam Teets
Sources Referenced
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 1990.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, 1972.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 1975.
Greg, Melissa, and Gregory Seigworth. The Affect Theory Reader, 2010.
Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, 2011.
—. 99 Theses on the Revaluation of Value: A Postcapitalist Manifesto, 2018.
—. A User’s Guide to Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Deviations from Deleuze & Guattari, 1992.
—. The Power at the End of the Economy, 2014.
—. Ontopower: War, Powers, and the State of Perception, 2015.
—. Politics of Affect, 2015.
—. What Animals Teach Us About Politics, 2014.
Sedgwick, Eve. Epistemology of the Closet, 1990.
—. Tendencies, 1993.

Notable Quotes from Massumi

“Take joy in your digressions” (Parables for the Virtual 18).
“You have to let yourself get so caught up in the flow of your writing that it ceases at moments to be recognizable to you as your own. This means you have to be prepared for failure. For with inattention comes risk: of silliness or even outbreaks of stupidity. But perhaps in order to write experimentally, you have to be willing to ‘affirm’ even your own stupidity. Embracing one’s own stupidity is not the prevailing academic posture (at least not in the way I mean it here)" (18).
“The point, again, is not to make the humanities scientific. The point is to borrow from science in order to make a difference in the humanities. . . . [and to] make them differ from the sciences in ways they are unaccustomed to" (19).
“The concept will start to deviate under the force. Let it. Then reconnect it to other concepts, drawn from other systems, until a whole new system of connection starts to form. Then, take another example. Follow the new growth. You end up with many buds. Incipient systems. Leave them that way. . . You have left your readers with a very special gift: a headache. By which I mean a problem: what in the world to do with it all. That’s their problem. That’s where experimentation begins" (19).

9 episodes