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The affective capacity of blackness

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Theorizing an affective capacity of blackness is an engagement with desires beyond the individual that bring together feelings, spaces, objects, bodies, and organic and nonorganic body parts into productive assemblages by leveraging the “stickiness” and ontological nature of blackness. After elaborating force and relationality as components of assemblages of blackness and describing the event of blackness as a moment of assemblage-making that is produced by and produces surplus value, we examine how surplus blacknesses as information are taken up through statistics and temporalities of risk in the management of populations. We then explore the potential of circulations of black affective resistance.

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  1. Deleuze (1992) follows Michel Foucault’s distinction between a disciplinary society and one of control and securitization where power is enacted on individuals not just through a disciplinary function in spaces of enclosure but through biopower at the level of the population. Within societies of control, the informational and the computational are fundamental elements of production, labor, and value. Surplus value becomes extracted from desiring machines whose assemblages consist of both labor and the informational.

  2. Puar (2014) grasps the connection between affect and biopolitics, arguing that it is “through biopolitics that affect works” and that “Societies of Control function through affective tetherings.”

  3. See Rugh and Massey (2010) for background.

  4. See Schneider (2012) and Phelps et al. (2015) for background.

  5. See BBC (2015) for background.

  6. “Public” refers to Michel Foucault’s (2007, p. 75) use as “the population seen under the aspect of its opinions, ways of doing things, forms of behavior, customs, fears, prejudices, and requirements.” See also Clough and Willse (2010, p. 51) who differentiate public and population in their theorization of affective branding.

  7. The idea of an opinion poll, for example, can only hold any traditionally sociological form of veracity if the qualitative components of opinion are reduced to quantitative data. This reduction occludes the way opinion flows and assembles.

  8. See Johnson (2005) and Queerty Staff (2009) for background.

  9. See Alvarez and Buckley (2013), Ford (2013), and Volsky (2013) for background.

  10. See Semuels (2015) for background.

  11. See Low (2004) for background.

  12. “Mnemonic control” can be thought of as another component of inundation where, as an unfolding of time, it operates as “a refined mode of pre-emptive power….[where] a memory of the future is not just some predictive simulation but rather the investment in future feedback… a ceaseless bet on future desires” (Parisi and Goodman 2011, p. 165).

  13. See Solomon (2011) for background.

  14. See Christoffersen (2012) for background.

  15. See Binder (2013) for background.

  16. See Barton (2013) for background.

  17. See Aisch and Keller (2016) for background.

  18. See O’Reilly (2013) for background.

  19. See Irvine (2013) for background.

  20. Martin (2007. p. 4) distinguishes risk from uncertainty by defining it as an expected outcome in the future whose likelihood or value can be quantified.

  21. See Sullivan (2011) for background.

  22. See BBC (2013) for background.

  23. See Dodd (2011), The Guardian/LSE (2011), and Newburn et al. (2011) for background.

  24. See Lemon (2013) for background.

  25. See Hartman (2007) where her exploration of memory and slavery infers a mneumonic understanding between the lived reality of Black folks and the persistent inundated resonances of the felt ‘memory’ of slavery.

  26. See Cooper (2012) for background.

  27. See Gibbs (2016) for background.


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Correspondence to Colin Patrick Ashley.

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Ashley, C.P., Billies, M. The affective capacity of blackness. Subjectivity 10, 63–88 (2017).

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