Here come the resonant bodies

The University of British Columbia has a Theory Workshop. No really; it does.

This month’s was a Derrida one. Coming up in April there will be a Deleuze one. It looks way good.

Most of us who draw from, and aim to produce, critical theory set out to make analytical interventions in the making of political transformations. This is, after all, what sets critical theory apart from mainstream theory. The ongoing wave of revolutionary unrest in North Africa and the Middle-East provides us with an opportunity and a challenge, both of which are theoretical as well as political: to put the tool kits of our conceptual assemblages to the test and re-invent and expand our intellectual horizons in response to novel political-historical configurations. In this workshop, we will explore and debate the political dimensions of the so-called “affective turn” in the humanities in the past decade. In particular, we will examine Spinoza’s concept of “affect” together with that of “resonance,” which a number of authors (including myself) are beginning to explore to understand the bodily, spatial, temporal, and affective forces that are currently transforming a central geopolitical node of global imperial power. My overall aim, in short, will be to debate the triad “affect, resonance, revolution” both conceptually and in connection with actual political terrains.

Isn’t that just a great way to make analytical interventions in the making of political transformations? Don’t you think the people of Egypt will be thrilled and grateful to see the interventions appear over the brow of the hill?

There’s a blog about it too. It’s a big intervention.

Resonance is an intensely bodily, spatial, political affair, materialized in the masses of bodies coming together in the streets of Egyptian cities in the past thirteen days, clashing with the police, temporarily dispersed by teargas and bullets, and regrouping again like an relentless swarm to reclaim the streets, push the police back, and saturate space with a collective effervescence. Resonance is what gives life to this human rhizome and the source of its power.

I think the idea is that when a lot of people get together, you have a crowd, and then sometimes things happen.

Everybody feels the resonance reverberating from Egypt and is trying to make sense of it, to name it. But the words seem inadequate, partial, incomplete: enthusiasm, energy, passion, anger, contagion, electrifying, domino effect. These terms name features of resonance but miss its salience as a physical, affective, political force made up of living bodies. Those who know it best, if intuitively, are the bodies that produce it in the streets.

Words are inadequate, so you need a Theorist to come up with better ones, like “bodies” for “people,” because that’s so…empowering. Do I have it right?

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