discourse and affect

Jukka Laari jlaari at kanto.cc.jyu.fi
Wed Jul 26 11:43:52 MDT 1995


I find your posting on discourse and affect very interesting, but I hope
you could clarify some concepts you've used.

Especially I hope that you have time to tell in what sense you're writing
about discourse - that would clarify things quite a lot.  (I was hoping
that someone else would make these questions, but at least I haven't
received much postings on this... so here it comes:)

(1) Non-discursivity:

(Jon:) "Essentially, I remain surprised at the position (even from those
who defend its existence) that the "non-discursive" is somehow residual,
what's left over when you've catalogued and itemised the preponderance
that is the discursive.  Similarly, asking desperately "what is outside
language" assumes that one is already fully--and *only*--inside
language. With this I disagree."

This question of non-discursivity, I think, have been one quite crucial
question of Foucauldian concept of discourse. Some interpreters have
thought that the whole concept is senseless (because if discourse is the
medium through which objects are constructed & therefore are, then the
idea of non-discursivity refers to something which isn't & can't be
articulated at all; therefore it's meaningless to even hint at it); for
others it has been powerful critical and materialistic position or
something like that - sorry this allusiveness, but I simply don't
remember any reference on this theme... I think MF himself writes about
it at least in "Archeology of knowledge".

On the other hand, Lacan-interpretations seem usually indicate that
during the evolution of the symbolic (I mean: on individual level) the
'world of unstructured intensities (or whatever) of animal/recently born
baby' either comes included into symbolic or becomes part of real
(non-symbolizable). In the latter case there seem to be place for
non-discursive domain. But that's literally non-discursive?

I'm still desperate. (Though I don't assume I'm fully inside language.)

(2) Non-discursivity / discourse, knowledge & al.

(Jon:) "Equally, I find it bizarre that essentially knowledge, cognition
and sociality are all equated with discourse, and thus the
non-discursive somehow with the "non-human" or the *unheimlich* or
somesuch.  The non-discursive does indeed, but for *both* apparent sides
in this dispute, become the Kantian "thing in itself" or *Ding and Sich*
or whatever.  Again, I have a hard time with all this."

Whether Foucault or Lacan, discourse is - not necessarily equated, but -
related very strongly with knowledge (which always (?) is discursive,
articulated through language; otherwise it's plain sense-data or
something like that). I don't know about that cognition... Do you mean it
in a sense of cognitive psychology? And sociality? I think that discourse
(at least in ordinary linguistic sense) and language in general are,
perhaps, necessary 'factors' of sociality. There is every now and then
talk about 'the social relations' of ants and the like, but I don't find
ants sociologically (nor culturally) relevant objects. I leave them to

So, what is discourse in order to be not closely related to knowing (etc)?

(3) Non-discursive as affect

(Jon:) "Moreover, I'll propose a positive term for what's so far been
designated the non-discursive: how about "affect"?  By this I mean
something more than emotion, but rather, along the lines of Spinozan
*affectus*, interactions between and among bodies.  We find ourselves
situated as much within this realm of affect, within our own
materiality, as within some kind of symbolic order of discourse."

Now that's interesting stuff!

But isn't this realm of affect immediately in symbolic when we start to
consider it, to talk about it? Again, what do you mean by discourse?
(Surely affects are discursive (objects) in foucauldian sense, if you
start to consider them?)

(4) Affect, intensities, community, power / 'beneath ideology'

(Jon:) "I'll suggest that in discussing affect, one would also be
discussing intensity, community, power and what goes on "beneath
ideology" and despite it.  Moreover, discourse works along the lines of
the abstraction that permits and reproduces abstract, quantifiable labor
measured by the abstract, quantifiable time of the account book and the
M-C-M' circuit of production for its own sake (or rather, for the
unaffective equivalent that is capital).

More interesting stuff...

But what is this 'beneath ideology'? If everything is just surface (in
quasi-deleuzian manner - that's my illustration, not a reference to your
posting), and ideology is co-extensive with symbolic/language and with
discourse, then what could be beneath ideology?

What comes to these deleuzian 'lines of abstraction' - haven't GD tried
to produce some new 'lines'? I mean, kind of lines you mentioned aren't
surely the only (& necessary) lines there are? I'm not sure at all now,
because that's something I'm quite unfamiliar with... To put it naively:
can't we simply jump 'on other lines'? Please, enlighten us!

(5) 'Lyotardian potentialities'?

(Jon:) "Now, I want to suggest the *everydayness* of such
potentialities: rather than the inability fully to get rid of language,
but the impossibility of language's cataloguing, describing everything or
anything (for that matter) very much." <I snipped quite a lot away from
this end part - JL>

Would you clarify your point of these potentialities? That's interesting
again. Unfortunately, this time I was unable to grasp your point at all.
(That 'no fixing' of language is ok with me.)

Yours, Jukka Laari

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