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PostHumanities #07: Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somaticby John Protevi
Synopses & Reviews
For many philosophers, the rational cognitive (Cartesian) subject defines the human, or at least defines what humans should be. Yet some recent cognitive science, as well as the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari, has called into question such individuality and rationality and emphasized social and emotional subjectivity. Understanding such embodied and embedded subjectivity, John Protevi argues, demands the notion of bodies politic.
In Political Affect, Protevi investigates the relationship between the social and the somatic: how our bodies, minds, and social settings are intricately and intimately linked. Bringing together concepts from science, philosophy, and politics, he develops a perspective he calls political physiology to indicate that subjectivity is socially conditioned and sometimes bypassed in favor of a direct connection of the social and the somatic, as with the politically triggered basic emotions of rage and panic. Protevi's treatment of affective cognition in social context breaks new theoretical ground, insisting that subjectivity be studied both in its embodied expression and in terms of the distribution of affective cognitive responses in a population.
Moving beyond the theoretical, Protevi applies his concept of political affect to show how unconscious emotional valuing shaped three recent, emotionally charged events: the cold rage of the Columbine High School slayings, the racialized panic that delayed rescue efforts in Hurricane Katrina, and the twists and turns of empathy occasioned by the Terry Schiavo case. These powerful individual and collective political events require new philosophical understanding.
Book News Annotation:
Somatic has been defined as "relating to or affecting the body, especially the body as considered to be separate from the mind", yet this very dense and complex treatise dwells on arcane philosophical theories which tie political events and action to "bodies politic" in the literal sense. The work draws heavily on the philosophy of Deleuze, Guattari, Maturana, Varela, and others. The text is demanding. The concepts presented may require more than one reading for the full impact of Protevi's analysis to emerge. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
John Protevi is professor of French studies at Louisiana State University. His other books include Political Physics: Deleuze, Derrida, and the Body Politic and Time and Exteriority: Aristotle, Heidegger, Derrida.
Table of Contents
Part I. A Concept of Bodies Politic
1. Above, Below, and Alongside the Subject
2. Bodies Politic
Part II. Bodies Politic as Organisms
3. The Organism in Aristotle and Kant
4. The Anorganic Body in Deleuze and Guattari
Part III. Love, Rage, and Fear
5. Terri Schiavo: The Somatic Body Politic
6. The Columbine High School Massacre: The Transverse Body Politic
7. Hurricane Katrina: The Governmental Body Politic
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