Atmosphere/Affect

Public panel discussion with Brian Massumi & Jan Slaby. 04.05.2017, 14:00-18:00. Salon des ehem. Palais Dürckheim, Cranachstraße 47, Weimar.

In the face of significant political and social transformations due to globalization, digitalization and current developments within the technosciences, there has been an increasing interest in theories of embodied experience, material practices and the performative dimensions of (human) life within the field of media studies in recent years. In their focus on relation, materiality and becoming, these theories now seem more pertinent and productive to understand life under the condition of advanced capitalism than former theories that followed a logic of representation. Two key concepts that have emerged from this theoretical field will be the focus of our event: atmosphere and affect.

These concepts owe their genealogies to a wide range of philosophical traditions and are far from homogenous. In fact, despite obvious affinities and resonances, affect and atmosphere have largely evolved completely independent from each other, not least due to language barriers. This is certainly the case regarding the traditions of the so called “Affective Turn” in Anglophone philosophy on the one hand and the notion of atmosphere as developed in German phenomenologies on the other.

Against this background, we are delighted to have the opportunity to set the stage for a discussion between two prominent advocates of these fields: Brian Massumi, who was one of the main initiators of the affective turn with his seminal 1995 essay The Autonomy of Affect, and Jan Slaby, who works and publishes on affect and atmosphere from a postphenomenological perspective. In a public panel discussion, they will discuss resonances and interferences between the German terminological field of StimmungAtmosphäre, Befindlichkeit or Gefühl (feeling) as deployed in phenomenology and notions like affective attunement or affective tonality coming from the Deleuzian and process-philosophical line of thought in Affect Theory. Over the course of their conversation Massumi and Slaby will explore how their respective philosophical approaches might contradict or resemble, mutually stimulate and enrich each other and what new potentials for thinking about affect and atmosphere might emerge from such an encounter.

The discussion is moderated by Friedlind Riedel and Christoph Carsten of the Kompetenzzentrum Medienanthropologie (KOMA).

Brian Massumi is a political theorist, writer and philosopher, and is a professor in the Department of Communication Sciences at the University of Montréal in Quebec Canada. His research bears on the philosophy of experience, art and media theory, and political philosophy. The philosophical perspective linking these research areas is “radical empiricism” (Bergson, James, Whitehead, Simondon, Deleuze/Guattari). His most recent publications include Ontopower: War, Powers, and the State of Perception (2015), The Power at the End of the Economy (2015), What Animals Teach Us about Politics (2014) and Thought in the Act: Passages in the Ecology of Experience (co-written with Erin Manning; 2014). He is also the author of Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts (2011) and Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (2002). His translations from the French include Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus.

Jan Slaby is a philosopher and is professor at the Institute of Philosophy at Free University Berlin, Germany. He is working at the intersection of philosophy of mind, social philosophy and philosophy of science. His research is especially concerned with affect and emotion, agency, self-consciousness and social interaction, deploying a post-phenomenological method.  He is the author of Gefühl und Weltbezug. Die menschliche Affektivität im Kontext einer neo-existentialistischen Konzeption von Personalität (2008). In addition, he is the editor of Critical Neuroscience. A Handbook of the Social and Cultural Contexts of Neuroscience (co-edited with Suparna Choudhury, 2012) and Affektive Intentionalität. Beiträge zur welterschließenden Funktion der menschlichen Gefühle (co-edited with Achim Stephan, Henrik Walter und Sven Walter, 2011). He is the author of numerous articles on affect, subjectivity, critical neuroscience and various other fields.

Advance registration: friedlind.riedel[at]uni-weimar.de