Anxiety Affect Aliens and Other Non-Paranoid Performances Against Capitalism
Keywords:precarity, affect theory, phenomenology, feminist theory, performativity, alienation, assembly, paranoid reading
In 2014, the Institute for Precarious Consciousness published a number of propositions on the relationship between anxiety, precarity, and neoliberal capitalism. IPC argues that anxiety is the dominant affect of neoliberal capitalism and proposes consciousness-raising circles as a technique for combating anxiety, exposing anxiety as a “public secret,” and ushering in the new anxiety-fighting machine. Heeding the roots of consciousness-raising in feminist movements, this paper puts the IPC’s proposed approach in conversation with affect theory. What is the relationship between neoliberal capitalism and anxiety, and how can anxiety be brought, through performance, into a political phenomenology of the emotions in order to combat capitalism as the dominant ideology? Following Judith Butler’s use of Hannah Arendt’s view of action and simultaneous resistance to Arendt’s division of mind and body in her conception of public and private spheres, I ask: how can embodied techniques (in approaches such as Brechtian alienation and situational choreography) be used in conjunction with speech acts to address precarity’s effects on mind and body? Rather than seeking to subdue anxiety, I argue that breaking the cycle of affect production requires a praxis-based use of alienation, and the supplementation of paranoid approaches to criticism and activism with reparative approaches.
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