Obermann Center for Advanced Studies Affect & Inquiry 2014 Symposium

Professor Malin will be presenting a paper entitled “The Path to the Machine: Affect Studies, Technology, and the Problem of Emotion,” for the University of Iowa’s Obermann Center for Advanced Studies 2014 humanities symposium, Affect & Inquiry. The symposium will take place March 27-29, 2014 and will feature key note addresses by Lauren Berlant, Ann Cvetkovich, Jasbir Puar, and Kerry Ann Rockquemore, and a key note panel dedicated to the work of the late José Muñoz. Professor Malin will present as part of a panel entitled “Flattening Sensations?: Science / Technology / Affect,” on March 28th, from 3:15 to 4:30 in the Iowa City Public Library.

Here is the abstract for Professor Malin’s presentation:

The Path to the Machine:
Affect Studies, Technology, and the Problem of Emotion

As late as the 1990s, sociologists Simon Williams and Gillian Bendelow would note an inattention to emotion across the social sciences and humanities. In their view, the study of emotional life had been colonized by the natural sciences, which framed emotions as private, biological impulses beyond the reach of critical reflection. From the ‘90s to the early 21st century, a range of writers in sociology, history, and cultural studies would increasingly see emotion as an important area of study. This “affective turn” has offered an important corrective to standard scientific conceptions of emotion, highlighting the mysteries of embodiment that are ignored by a narrowly empirical approach. While celebrating this development, this paper offers a series of cautions drawn from a comparative history of scholarly attention to emotion. Similarly to the early 21st century understanding of affect, the social sciences of the late 19th and early 20th century employed what I term a “neo-romantic” conception of emotion. By the 1920s, this idea would be subsumed into a new scientific paradigm that saw the new recording technologies as perfect vehicles for taming the mysteries of emotion. I discuss strategies for avoiding this scientizing of emotion in our own period, which is similarly taken with a series of “new technologies.”