"There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry any more" – Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1974: 156)
I was lucky enough to attend an excellent workshop on Monday at Royal Holloway on Creating Worlds: The Affective Spaces of Experimental Politics. The workshop was organized by Anja Kanngieser and the wider Protest Camp collective. In the words of the original brief, it sought to “bring together those exploring questions of how we live within, formulate, create and antagonise, spaces and places of politics: public and private, macro-political and micro-political.” In so doing, the main aim of the event was to provoke a “conversation about spaces in which self-organisation occur, whereby people come together in some sort of common articulation.” The workshop thus placed particular emphasis on the complex affective threads – the energies and desires – that run through and often hold together and sustain radical political spaces and alternative lifeworlds.
As the whole event has been recorded and will soon be available to download, it is not my intention to offer a detailed synopsis of the workshop. I would, however, like to offer a few comments on some of the themes which emerged out of the various roundtable discussions.
1) Affective composition and ‘worlding’ – one of the key themes explored during the day was the role that geography plays in expanding the affective potential of a radical politics. What role does affect play in the composition of common spaces? How does affect ‘travel’? And to what extent does a radical political imaginary depend on transversal territories that facilitate the circulation of new political passions?
Discussion focused on the spatialization of affect as a way of making a particular political atmosphere. While such a focus may seem to sidestep – even eschew – the concrete materialities of political practice, a greater understanding of how social transformation is felt does strike me as crucial in developing alternative pathways to contemporary capitalism. The success and failure of affect to resonate politically should not be underestimated.
2) Organization and Infrastructure – the workshop also highlighted the role that organization plays in the composition of alternative political worlds. To the extent that this has become a question of infrastructure and assembly, it also a question of authority and reflexivity. At stake here, it seems to me, is a demand for re-thinking how political relations are formed and nurtured and the material supports which allow for the persistence of durable and livable material environments.
3) Spatial Formations and Dissent – the workshop also focused on the repertoire of spatial practices that run through and are, in many cases, immanent to the making of radical political sites. If the camp has become a key site of protest, further attention to its genealogy as “an exceptional space for an exceptional politics” (the phrase is Adam Ramadan’s) is indeed necessary. Despite the camp’s putative ‘temporariness,’ the workshop also highlighted the way in which camps often serve as sites of indefinite refusal.