What Does the Unconscious Know About Capitalism?: One-Way Feminist Speculations on Affect, Anxiety, and Love in the Age of Neoliberalism

February 19, 2016

Alessandra Capperdoni

Friday, February 19, 7:00PM–9:00PM, Room 7000, SFU Harbour Centre

The “turn to affect” of recent decades has produced important contributions to our understanding of the social world and the force-relations (or intensities) that exceed consciousness and knowledge. This turn, which also marks a shift from epistemology to ontology, has identified in anxiety the prevailing affect in the age of neoliberal governance. Alongside other fields of research, with which it is often in conversation, affect theory addresses ‘anxiety’ primarily at the level of the individual, or groups of individuals—thus constructing a conceptual framework which posits anxiety as a symptomatic condition of the subject in response to capitalism as an external cause. But this model locks us in an a posteriori stance whereby we can only ‘record’ and ‘oppose’ conditions that have already been created, rather than intervening in their creation.

Following Lacan’s notion of anxiety in Seminar X and the idea that “the unconscious is a kind of knowledge” (Soler) which is extimate to the subject, this paper invites a rethinking of anxiety as being structurally embedded in the working of late capitalism and to bring Lacanian psychoanalysis in conversation with different theorists of the social and the political (Simmel, Benjamin, Lukacs, Foucault, Agamben, Esposito, Irigaray, Braidotti, and Butler). What is gained in asking if capitalism suffers from anxiety? Of what is capitalism anxious? The paper will further discuss contemporary poetics and artistic practices that address “capitalism’s anxiety” as a mode of knowledge in order to imagine different articulations (and de-reification) of the social bond.

Alessandra Capperdoni teaches modern and contemporary literature, literary theory, and critical theory in the Departments of English and Humanities. Her research focuses on avant-garde poetics and experimental writings in the context of the nexus space/nation/culture, gender and sexuality, and subjectivity and desire in relation to larger social imaginaries and practices.

She is currently working on a book manuscript, Shifting Geographies: Poetics of Citizenship in the Age of Global Modernity. Two further projects include the examination of the role of literature and culture inrelation to war and violence, and the examination of feminist writings and artistic practices addressing the politics of ‘life’ and ‘matter’ in the contemporary world. Articles have appeared in Translation Effects: "The Making of Modern Canadian Culture"; "Tracing the Line: Reflections on Contemporary Poetics and Cultural Politics in Honour of Roy Miki"; "Trans/acting Culture, Writing, and Memory: Essays in Honour of Barbara Godard"; "Cultural Grammars of Nation, Diaspora, and Indigeneity in Canada"; "Translating from the Margins/ Traduire des marges"; "Convergence and Divergence in North America: Canada and the United States"; and the journals "Canadian Literature Journal, Open Letter, TTR: Traduction, traductologie, redaction, and West Coast Line."