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Affects: thinking identities beyond culture.

My aim in this editorial is to propose an alternative model of identities in opposition to the culturalist account of identities in an attempt to (re) think notions of [cultural] identities through recourse to the idea of affects. (1) In a culturalist account, identities are often defined in terms of race, class and gender. And we have already produced numerous theoretical models to approach culture, politics and history, and their effectivity over the formation of subjectivity as effects of narrative seeing history "... as a kind of production of various kinds of narratives." (2) But here I am attempting to approach subjectivity from the idea of 'noncultural'/'nonnarrated' reality of affects, neither taking any airy transcendentalist turn nor adopting the point of view of any "misty crust" of cultural universalism, but rather from the position of Spinozian ethics of immanence. (3) My sense of 'noncultural' does not deny culture rather expands its horizon opening new fields for [cultural] individuations; rather helps to analyze the content and expression of culture. Additionally, I am also trying to introduce Spinozian view point of affects as a can-be new approach to analyze postcolonial/transnational bodies of literature.

What is wrong with the representationalist account of cultural individuations? How can my alternative model of [cultural] identities save an idealistic/humanistic mission for society? These are the two major questions I am intending to address. To start with the first question, I disagree with the idea that who am I is based on in which ethnicity, in which nationality, in which political, religious, ethical systems I grew up. I am not a representation of the summations of these social and geographical abstractions, nor am I the effects of narratives under certain "regimes of power." I am a "pure, pre-extensive spatium in intelligible extension." (4) My intelligible extension is grounded in the real world where I encounter not the "clear and distinct" ideas or causations and effects of some conceptual abstractions that we call narratives of history, ideology, politics and truth but physical affects and affections (5) that my body produces with another body. And my intelligibility of the world cannot be adequately mediated either through any conceptual abstraction. I am my affective investment to the world. In other words, the content of my identity is not the idea of some conceptual abstractions, but rather the expressive power of my body. My body is an immanent force, which encounters other forces in the world and shapes what is in me and possibly cause to shape what is in others. I am a force, a new emergence within me all the time. That emergence is a purely organic process: an appreciative activity and organic vitality and it is affirmative will-to-create new individuations. I am not like "deorganizing the organic" (6) in any ossified representations. I am neither deorganic representation of any abstract stratifications that people name "culture," "history," etc., nor am I effects of discursive formation, as Foucault for instance thinks . I am the organic body not a de-organic formation of effects of some social production. Body is generative organism which creates affects and affections, which, even culturalist like Marcus admits, are structured around our social institutions. Body is not irreducible to any external disciplinary practices as Foucault maintains when he says: "True discourse, liberated by the nature of its form from desire and power, is incapable of recognising the will to truth which pervades it; and the will to truth, having imposed itself upon us [body] for so long, is such that the truth it seeks to reveal cannot fail to mask it." (7) For Foucault, my body is acted upon, and some external abstraction which he calls "discourse" acts. This is just Foucault in his later works does not believe, a point that supports my claim here. My body acts upon other bodies. In its active investment to the world, it either enters into compositional or decompositional relationship with other bodies. It affects and is affected at the same time; it shapes its individuation and affects the shape of other's individuation. All the social practices and institutions are purely organic evolution of my body. My body is not a de-organic state that passively enters into some discursive practices imposed from without; nor is my body effect of such practices. My body is an "affectual self-organization," which not only receives effects in its encounter with other bodies but affects their nature of encounter with it. My body evolves and emerges as well makes other bodies evolve; it is not something passive recipient of external agency as early Foucault claims. It is not discourse that produces and controls my body; it is my body which produces and evolves countless discourses on the expressive accounts of my bodies. What is active is not something external that we can label history, truth, or language. It is my body's active formation of affectual individuations, which give particular notions of linguistic form of historical truth their existence. My body does not enter into particular prior form of culture, like what Ronald Dworkin means in saying: "We inherited a cultural structure...." (8) Rather my body forms a particular expression of culture within me. Culture (and history) is not the flow of "feelings like identification, loyalty, a sense of belonging" (9) as it is for some cultural preservationists. It is not a matter of "fact-value;" it is the manner/mode of expression in which we create values. It is all upside down. For example, when Foucault was in San Francisco with the community of gay nearly about forty years ago, he realized that there is possibility to go beyond the prevalent knowledge and discourse prescribed by regimes of truth and create identity and social rights for the gay through the recourse to affectivity. He realized that the affective self-organization of the gay community can be a resistance to the prevalent discourse on homosexuality. I mean the later Foucault realized that subjective individuation is not as he earlier would believe as an effect of discourse but it is always the activity of the generative novelty of the affects. So Foucault mainly in his book Ethics appears very much Spinozian when he interprets power shifting his emphasis from idea of discourse to the affectual self-organization of the margins to resist the authority. That means subjective formation for later Foucault is not 'effect' but the affectivity over external bodies.

Therefore, my active emergence defines who I am through the ideas of affects and affections, not at all through how my body enters into a priory form of socio-cultural-linguistic structures from something outside me. In trying to define body from such structures is not only trying to misunderstand the nature of laws of body but also as Spinoza says it is having " inadequate ideas" (10) of such structure. The contents of our ideas of any forms of life are the modes of affects. And, my subjectivity is nothing but the position of my body-how it affects other bodies in nature and how it is affected. There exists nothing that we can label culture, language, history and truth, which do not contain affects and affections in my subjectivity. In other words, the ideas of culture, history and truth, by which we define subjectivity are affective states of my body. My body is apolitical, amoral, non-cultural and non-narrated "bundle" of affections that it produces in its encounter with other bodies. These affections are not passive effects as early Foucault understands them; they are my active understanding of the world. These affections are my direct and dynamic evolvement with the world, which not only shapes my subjectivity but also shapes subjective positions that they encounter in the world. Subjectivity is an active, direct, engaging and affectual relationship of my body with the other bodies. It is not effects of discourse, as for early Foucault; nor effects of narratives, as for Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak; nor in-betweenness of cultural traps, as for Salman Rushdie. And the ideas of culture and history that are structured around my subjectivity or "I" is a "mode of brain" (11) (a mode is active and engaging expression and brain a position of body) that the activity of my body form in certain way; they are not an ideological/political state constituted by some narratives/discourses/situatedness of cultural and historical abstractions in which I make my passive entry.

If anything can define me it is a force/affect, which can influence the power of activity of my body. The idea of my mind is the affection of my body. Affection and idea work in parallelism. Spinoza says: "The order of actions and passions of our body is, by nature, at one with the order of actions and passions of the mind. (12) Body in its modes of expression invents and reinvents infinite sensations in me ever postulating new emergence in me, as Stephen Zepke puts it: " Subjectivation is the ongoing emergence of new affective connections opening onto the outside of a subjective 'I.' In its aleatory affectual events subjectivation is always coming-into being, assembling itself ... becoming." (13) Therefore, the contents of identifications are "affectual events," not cognitive fixations, which traditional culturalists and ethnologists define in terms of misty cultural codes like ethnicity, race, nationality etc, which themselves are thus nothing, I reassert, but our affective investment to the world. In other words, the contents of our social identifications entail the affective states of our world. Our identities, therefore, are not a state of representation of some abstract concepts of ethnicity, nationality, religious and political systems but the expression of our emotive engagement with the world. And also, our affective states are not the effects of the object which is already good or bad; rather, they are the causes which constitute goodness in our object of desire. Spinoza says: "... we neither strive for, nor will, neither want, nor desire anything because we judge it to be good; on the contrary, we judge something to be good because we strive for it, will it, want it, and desire it." (14) Therefore, the good or bad of our [cultural] identities cannot be counted as Charles Tylor puts " it's hard to see how we could deny it [culture] the title of good, not just in some weakened, instrumental sense ... but as intrinsically good." (15) In this sense, any pre-given judgment on the goodness or badness of any cultural groups (e.g. western or nonwestern, orient or occident, etc.) can have no foundation. Because any identification is not 'substance' rather they are the "mode of substance." (16) And also this mode does not work in generality rather their expressive modes behave in a unique way. To illustrate it with an example from American-western imperialist enterprises in Iraq (out of my interest to try to develop a new approach of affects to study postcolonial/transnational issues), George W. Bush is 'imperialist' not because the entity that we call the West is imperialist in its substance, but because of Bush's expressive investment to Iraq-his invasion of a sovereign and independent nation on a still unjustified cause. If Bush is "terrorist" not because the substance of terrorism is in Bush or in his culture, but because his expression of power of activity of his administrative body produces, to put it in Spinoza's words, "sad passions" (17) in Iraq and besmirched the image of his country in Asia. And, his action could not enter into composing relations in Iraq because it produced "sad passions" to the thousands of innocent Iraqi women and children. That's why he got the farewell kiss of boots in Iraq. Eighteenth and nineteenth century colonialism is bad, not because colonialists and their colonialism were inherently bad, but because their colonial enterprises could not enter into compositional relationships with the colonies. To explain further, Spinoza says there is nothing like "badness" inherently associated in "poison" that we can call "bad," but we call poison bad because it "decomposes" our body. That's why the question of western colonialism can be better understood less in terms of politics, ideology, culture and history, and more in terms of affects and affections. Colonialism is the matter of nature of how one body encounters the other bodies. If Kurtz had "adequate ideas" (18) how to maximize joyful passions for himself, he would have known how to behave with the natives in Congo. If he was aware that his exploitations and robbery of natives resources would bring "sad passions" in the natives, structuring his relationships in decompositional ways, Kurtz would not have run a colonial enterprise in Congo. If Kurtz was a colonialist, it is not because there was some clear and distinct colonial missions Kurtz had in mind; it is because he had inadequate ideas how the activity of one's body works with other bodies in nature. The same holds true for the Orient. The substance of our [cultural] identities does not contain a priori something that one can call either beastly, savagery and spiritual, civilized and virtuous. It depends on the mode we express ourselves. We quarrel in Singh Darbar (19) and throw garbage everywhere in the streets of Kathmandu. These modes of our expressions bring "sad passions" to its observers. Some British delegates in their recent visit to our Prime Minister Madhab Kumar Nepal said: "your streets are too dirty." (20) These delegates called our streets dirty, not because the substance of their ideas about us in their mind was a priori negative, nor because there exists any a priori dirtyness in us but because there was malodorous garbage everywhere in the streets and many newspapers were carrying news about it everyday (here I am not historicizing garbage in terms of colonialism, therefore, want to avoid its further discussion). All affections structured in my identity caused by the nature of my own body and external bodies to it. And the nature of their interaction depends on the ideas of joyful passions and sad passions.
   Thus, in so as we perceive that a thing affects us with pleasure or
   pain, we call it good or evil; wherefore the knowledge of good and
   evil is nothing else but the idea of the pleasure or pain, which is
   necessarily follows from pleasurable or painful emotion ...; that
   is, there is no real distinction between this idea and the emotion
   or the modification of the body, save in conception only.
   Therefore, knowledge of good and evil is nothing else but the
   emotion, in so far as we are conscious thereof. (21)


Therefore the connotative postulations of our identities are affections, not the ideas. And, the nature of the affections rests on the power of activity of body.

Then the question arises: What does it mean to exist, to act, and to know (these are key elements of one's identity) with other bodies in the world? Since expression is one of the fundamental forces of our lives, "expression takes its place at the heart of the individual, in his soul and in his body, his passions and his actions, his causes and his effects," (22) this invites a constructive self-engagement and constant interaction with the other inviting a negation of what is given as identity and affirming what is within us. Since identities are modes of our expression of affects and affections and our culture goodness depends on whether our actions bring us joyful passions or sad passions, the ethical mission of our intellectual inquiry is to teach how to build a compositional relationship with other bodies so that my actions bring me joyful passions. Our inability to recognize this fact leads us into the decompositional relationship with others and brings us sad passions. Notice how Bush's invasion brought sad passions to Iraqi people and thus in turn brought back sad passions not only to himself, when he was humiliated by the boot hurling and abused with the insult of "Dog," but also plunged his people in severe economic crisis as the aftermath of war in Iraq. If Bush had recognized that his unilateral action could not enter into compositional relations in Iraq, that his action brings sad passions to others, which potentially brings back sad passions to himself and obliterates American images in Asia, he could have avoided sad passions for himself and his people. Therefore, his imperialist mission can better be understood not on any political, economic and ideological terms but in terms of Bush's inability to understand how the Spinozian laws of body work in nature. For the understanding of all this, we do not need any brands of cultural viewpoint of identities and their logic of cultural violence. The immanent Spinozian idea of body can teach us how we should live with others; the theory of affects can teach us how to live with others when we view identities (me and other) as modes of affects.

So, I arrive at a point to answer my second question: how can my alternative model of [cultural] identities save an idealist/humanistic mission for society? To understand cultural identities in terms of modes of affects means transvaluing all the coordinates of traditional culturalist account of identities. In such accounts identities are trying to create othering of the otherness of others whether culturally or linguistically, which is the expression of "sad passions" because othering the other in any abstract terms is inviting the other into decompositional relationships and producing nothing but resentiment and remorse, hatred and intolerance. This attempt suffers from a serious flaw on the parts of both those who exclude their other and those who feel excluded. For, they do not have a Spinozian "adequate idea" of Levinasian respect and recognition of the strangeness in others. Those who have "inadequate ideas" of how the natural laws of body work treat to the strangeness of the others in an unfriendly way. Their inimical treatment toward others, thus, cannot enter into compositional relationship and in turn brings sad passions to other bodies and in turn to themselves. Therefore the ethics of immanence teaches us to respect and recognize the strangeness of the others, prevent any "epistemic humility" to the other of the others and create "new affectual individuations that are not produced by an "I" as their subjective reference point, but produce it as part of a wider ontological process of creation." (23) This is a necessary condition for a creator of new value, new civilization. When we begin to recognize and honor the strangeness of the other from some solid immanent ethical position, we enter into an ethico-aesthetic level where as Levinas says we begin to see the "other as another me;" (24) as an "affectual self-organizing body" like myself whose maximization of joyful passions rest on our ability to enter our interactions to each other in compositional relationship, which calls for the "respect for imaginative differences and the capacity to flesh out those differences in order to see how they might each create powerful and dense visions of values in specific ways of responding to the world." (25) The manner in which we approach the world is very important; this is even more important to the ones who write literature and its theories because the "manner in arts" can powerfully teach people "how the world can be seen and how agents can act...." (26) Then, when we recognize that "our conative expressivity entails a will to power specifiable in terms of character and recognition. Seen as aspect of processes, the conative drives need not be connected directly to projections about specifiable persons or even ideal egos;" (27) when we recognize that identity is not a fixated state such as history, culture, ideology, geography, etc., but a mode in which we express ourselves, we begin to recognize that we are eternally self-organizing "conative drive (s)" whose liberation rests not on any given cultural values but creating values for ourselves, opening the immense possibilities for joyful passions to myself and others which ultimately defines us not in any "epistemic violence" and self-humiliating references of culture and politics but on the active understanding of emergence of my being and the role of my dynamic understanding of the laws of body in my emergence.

Summing up, all the narratives of my cultural identities are not narratives; they are 'non-narrated' affects and affections. In my account of narrative it "takes on its own impetus as it were, so that one begins to see narrative as non-narrated. One begins to say it is not narrative, it's the way things are." (28) Narratives, which define my cultural identities, are not only the discursive activity but they are the fundamental forces in the emergence of my being. And my ethico-aesthetic individuation is not a cultural relation of friend and enemy /self and other but of creative emergence. Such social identifications, I believe, can have a new hope for the promise of meaningful humanity for all of us.

(1) Spinoza defines affects as a physical force in a body which is active and creatively engaging expression of the body. It is not effects that we usually understand as emotions and sensations. Affect is the fundamental force of the body which creates new individuations in us. See Benedict Spinoza, Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza. Vol.11, trans. R. H. M. Elwes. (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1955).

(2) Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak , "The Post-modern Conditions: The End of Politics?" in Post-Colonial Critic: Interviews, Strategies, and Dialogues, (ed) Sarah Harasym (London: Routledge, 1990) p.17-34, pp.34.

(3) Spinozian ethics of immanence defines ideas as the power of activity of the body. Here I am trying to make a claim that the ideas of our identities are affectual individuations not conceptual abstractions that we call culture, history and politics.

(4) Gilles Deleuze, Desert Island and Other Texts (1953-1974) (Semiotext(e), 2003), p. 109.

(5) Affections are not identical with affects. Affections are modes of affects. Affections are active because affects are the substance of them.

(6) William Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy: A Contribution to the Psychology of Style (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1994), p 129.

(7) Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language, trans. A. M. Sheridan-Smith, 1971, P. 219.

(8) Ronald Dworkin, A Matter of Principle (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1985), p. 233.

(9) Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Ethics of Identity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), p.181.

(10) Spinoza calls it for having "inadequate ideas," if one does not know the laws of body in nature and he calls it for having "adequate ideas," if one knows the laws. For example, I drink coffee because I know it enters into compositional relationship with my body. That means, I have adequate knowledge of coffee. Likewise if I drink poison, it will decompose my body. My action of taking poison is my inadequate knowledge of natural laws of body. See Spinoza's Ethics, p. 231.

(11) Spinoza, p. 123.

(12) Spinoza, p.2.

(13) Stephen Zepke. Art as Abstraction Machine: Ontology and Aesthetics in Deleuze and Guattari. (New York: Routledge, 2005), p.153.

(14) Spinoza, p. 230.

(15) Charles Tylor "Irreducibly Social Goods" in Philosophical Arguments (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995) p 142.

(16) for Spinoza substance is not pure ideas but physical affects and affections.

(17) Spinoza divides passions as "sad passions" and "joyful passions." If other body enter into decompositional relationship with my body that produces "sad passions" and if the relationship is compositional, it produces "joyful passions." The contents of our ideas are either "sad passions" or "joyful passions." See Spinoza's Ethics, p. 170-171.

(18) See footnote 10.

(19) House of parliament in Nepal.

(20) Kantipur Daily , August 10, 2009.

(21) Spinoza, p. 195.

(22) Zepke, p.153.

(23) Gilles Deleuze, Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza (New York: Zone Books, 1990), p. 327.

(24) Levinas, The Intrigue of Ethics: A Reading of the Idea of Discourse in the Thought of Immanuel Levinas, (ed) Jeffrey Dudiak, (Fordam University Press,), p. 414.

(25) Charles Altieri, "Idealism and Twentieth Century Literary Theory" in The Humanities at Work: International Exchange of Ideas in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Literature, (ed) Yubraj Aryal (Kathmandu: Sunlight Publication, 2008), p. 113.

(26) Altieri, Humanities, p.114.

(27) Charles Altieri, The Particulars of Rapture: An Aesthetics of the Affects (Cornel University Press, 2003.), p. 143.

(28) Spivak, p.19.
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Author:Aryal, Yubraj
Publication:Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2009
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