Revolt or Resignation?: Between Lacanian Political Theory and Affect Theory 

Presented by Dr. Mari Ruti, Distinguished Professor of Critical Theory and of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Toronto

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

This presentation explores the divergent attitudes that Lacanian political theorists--particularly Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou, Paul Eisenstein, and Todd McGowan--and affect theorists such as Sarah Ahmed, Lauren Berlant, Sianne Ngai, and Kathleen Steward bring to questions of political resistance and agency. Where Lacanian political theorists speak a revolutionary language of acts, events, and ruptures that are designed to alter the course of history on the grand scale, affect theorists are primarily interested in the tenuous ways in which deprivileged subjects negotiate unequal, damaging, and humiliating social worlds. For this reason, affect theorists speak a resigned language of compromised agency, the kind of agency that is characterized more by dreams of escape than by heroic acts of rebellion. Ruti presents a critical account of both perspectives, expressing sympathy for the affect theoretical focus on the attempts of precarious subjects to bear lives that often feel unbearable at the same time as she acknowledges the political significance of transformative acts, events, and ruptures.