Thursday, June 19, 2008

affective contamination/communication

I think animals are completely capable of communication. I know that most studies show that animals learn (as opposed to some sort of mechanistic pure instinct, rather animals seem to have a power of life as well). Furthermore, many different types of animals have shown a great deal of skill at working together (most of those studies deal with types of primates, but still...). I think that animals communicate, not at the level of phone/logos (the separation of which concerned Aristotle so much, and in many ways whose separation continues to dominate western metaphysics and ontology), but at the level of the affect. Vitalistic power (so, life, but perhaps both more broadly and more narrowly understood) involves "affective contamination" (Guattari, Choasmosis). Affective contamination involves a lot of things. (1) It is a necessary pre-condition for all becomings (or as Haraway puts it, becoming-with). There is no becoming without being caught up in affects (indeed, D&G worry that animals-as-pets create modes of oedipalizations. I think you can see this when people go around and refer to themselves as mothers or fathers of animals. They never mean this as some sort of monstrosity "Who am I to have birthed this creature!?" but always a domestication. Mama-Papa-Me. In this sense D&G actually push against Haraway's criticisms that they are not concerned with animals themselves. They are very worried that the animal itself will become nothing more than a child. However, they also admit that pets can also create becomings. And that indeed pets can be sites of both oedipializations and becomings). (2) Affective contamination, rather than logos, is at the heart of social bonds (of community, operative and inoperative). Words so seldom convey content, but affects do. Think about funerals. Nothing profound is every said at a funeral (I'm sorry for your lose. He was a really great human. et cetera). Nothing profound is said, but community is created, a common is created. Or think about this one: I love you. The words themselves are totally vacuous, but yet they are so often seen as the most important words. Indeed, also all performative magics are not based upon words but upon affective contamination (it is not the content of "you are now husband and wife" it is rather the affect of it). Perhaps all communication is affective. That's a thesis I like, but I have no clue how to support that one. (3) All histories of productive power are really histories of how productive power takes affective contamination as their objects. They are histories of immunizations, and in this sense the work of Roberto Esposito is essential. Foucault very much seemed to make this point with his understanding of power relating to disease control (sovereign power is based upon leporsy, disciplinary upon plague [see both of these in Discipline and Punish and Abnormal], bio-power is based upon both polio and stopping racial contaminations [Security, Territory, Population and Society Must Be Defended, respectively]).