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‘I wasn't angry, because I couldn't believe it was happening’: Affect and discourse in responses to 9/111

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2011

Abstract

While the recent interest in affects and emotions in world politics is encouraging, the crucial relationships between affect, emotion, and discourse have remained largely under-examined. This article offers a framework for understanding the relations between affect and discourse by drawing upon the theories of Jacques Lacan. Lacan conceptualises affect as an experience which lies beyond the realm of discourse, yet nevertheless has an effect upon discourse. Emotion results when affects are articulated within discourse as recognisable signifiers. In addition, Lacanian theory conceptualises affect and discourse as overlapping yet not as coextensive, allowing analyses to theoretically distinguish between discourses which become sites of affective investment for audiences and those that do not. Thus, analysing the mutual infusion of affect and discourse can shed light on why some discourses are more politically efficacious than others. The empirical import of these ideas is offered in an analysis of American affective reactions to 11 September 2001.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2011

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References

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40 The examples here of patriotism and religion, and the arguments below, are certainly not meant to exhaust the entire myriad of ways in which affects influence human social reality. There may be, for example, affects which are largely independent of discourse, such as those experiences which could be understood as akin to ‘instinct’. Instead, my concern here is with the political relevance of affects and their relations to political discourse. On a related note, Lebow, Richard Ned, A Cultural Theory of International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar discusses the political implications of experiences such as appetite and spirit.

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55 Ibid., p. 125.

56 Ross, ‘Coming in from the Cold’.

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75 Ibid., p. 193, emphasis added.

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77 Ibid., pp. 275–6, emphasis added.

78 Ibid., p. 276; see also Widmaier, Wesley W., ‘Constructing Foreign Policy Crises: Interpretive Leadership in the Cold War and the War on Terrorism’, International Studies Quarterly, 51:4 (2007), pp. 779794CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

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80 Holland, ‘From September 11th, 2001 to 9/11’, p. 285, also pp. 275–6, 289.

81 By examining some of the affective politics surrounding 9/11, I do not mean to suggest that affects and emotions matter only during times of crisis rather than in everyday life and politics. Although, Bleiker and Hutchison, ‘Fear no more’, p. 129 suggest that the relevance of emotions is often most visible during traumatic events, since these events unsettle and challenge the emotional ties which help to hold together communities.

82 See Campbell, David, ‘Time is Broken: The Return of the Past in the Response to September 11’, Theory and Event, 5:4 (2001)Google Scholar , available at: {http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/theory_and_event/v005/5.4campbell.html} accessed 27 May 2010, and Edkins, Jenny, Trauma and the Memory of Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar .

83 Dan Hiller, Witness and Response Collection, US Library of Congress American Folklife Center, 18 September 2001 (SR 381), quoted in Holland, ‘From September 11th, 2001 to 9/11’, p. 279.

84 Naree Bisson, Witness and Response Collection, US Library of Congress American Folklife Center, 11 October 2001 (SR144), quoted in ibid.

85 Karl Day, Witness and Response Collection, US Library of Congress American Folklife Center, 2 October 2001 (SR101), quoted in ibid.

86 Daniel Dominguez, Witness and Response Collection, US Library of Congress American Folklife Center, 8 October 2001 (SR247), quoted in ibid.

87 Kyoko Sato, Witness and Response Collection, US Library of Congress American Folklife Center, 16 October 2001 (SR015), quoted in ibid.

88 Holland, ‘From September 11th, 2001 to 9/11’, p. 281.

89 Adam Gospodarek, Witness and Response Collection, US Library of Congress American Folklife Center, 13 September 2001 (SR375), quoted in ibid., p. 285.

90 Bill Kyriagis, Witness and Response Collection, US Library of Congress American Folklife Center, 14 September 2001 (SR375), quoted in ibid.

91 Patti Chapman, Witness and Response Collection, US Library of Congress American Folklife Center, 27 October 2001 (SR025), quoted in ibid.

92 Aaron Hill, Witness and Response Collection, US Library of Congress American Folklife Center, 18 September 2001 (SR203), quoted in ibid., p. 288.

93 Debbie Spinner, 11 September 2001 Documentary Project (2001), US Library of Congress American Folklife Center, available at: {http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/afc911:@field(DOCID+afc2001015t011)}.

94 Fink, , Lacan to the Letter, p. 51Google Scholar .

95 See Holland, ‘From September 11th, 2001 to 9/11’; the media, of course, played a significant role in this process. See Croft, Culture, Crisis; Richard Jackson, Writing the War on Terrorism.

96 Fink, , Lacan to the Letter, p. 51Google Scholar .

97 Glynos and Stavrakakis, ‘Lacan and Politial Subjectivity’, p. 267.

98 Nabers, ‘Filling the Void of Meaning’, p. 197.

99 Holland, ‘From September 11th, 2001 to 9/11’, p. 285.

100 Ibid.

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