Affective Dissent

Stephen Healy


This article identifies a form of affective bio-politics more intimate, engrained and corporeally enacted than that identified in recent work emphasising the affective qualities of activism and labour. While these latter reinforce and bolster existing analyses through the identification of further affective concerns, affective bio-politics suggests that neoliberalism supports and sustains itself quite fundamentally through, what have generally been, unrecognised affective means. While such affective regulation can only ever be partial and imprecise its unrecognised, and thus implicitly concealed, character lends it a particular cogency. Illuminating the mechanisms through which such affective regulatory modulation is achieved thus has a powerful potential to clarify further opportunities to disrupt and counter neoliberalism. This account juxtaposes an analysis of affective bio-politics with existing analyses of the affective, and performative, dimensions to activist politics, in order to facilitate the identification of specific opportunities for further affective contestationary strategies.


Affective bio-politics; Activism; Dissent; Bio-power

Full Text:



Adey, P. 2008, 'Airports, mobility and the calculative architecture of affective control', Geoforum, vol. 39, pp. 438-451.

Agrawal, A. 2005, Environmentality: technologies of government and the making of subjects, Duke University Press, Durham, NC.

Allen, J. 2006, 'Ambient power: Berlin's Potsdamer Platz and the seductive logic of public spaces', Urban Studies, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 441-455.

Anderson, B. 2009, 'Affective atmospheres', Emotion, Space and Society, vol. 2, pp. 77-81.

Anderson, B. 2012, 'Affect and biopower: Towards a politics of life', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 37, no. 1, pp. 28–43.

Barnett, C. 2008, 'Political affects in public space: Normative blind-spots in non-representational ontologies, ' Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 33, pp. 186–200.

Bissell, D. 2010, 'Passenger mobilities: Affective atmospheres and the sociality of public transport', Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, vol. 28, pp. 270-289.

Brennan, T. 2004, The Transmission of Affect, Cornell University Press, Cornell.

Connolly, W. E. 2002, Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis MN.

Crowley, J. 2001, 'Convenient comfort: Political economy', in The Invention of Comfort: Sensibilities and Design in Early Modern Britain and Early America, The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore MA.

Demasio, A.R. 2003, Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Harcourt, New York.

Duff, C. 2010, 'On the role of affect and practice in the production of place', Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, vol. 28, pp. 881-895.

Gould, D.B. (2002) 'Life during Wartime: Emotions and the development of Act Up', Mobilization: An International Journal, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 177-200.

Hardt, M. & Negri, A. 2000, Empire, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA and London.

Hardt, M. & Negri, A. 2004, Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire, Penguin, New York.

Hauptman, D. and Neidich, W. 2010, Cognitive Architecture. From Biopolitics to Noopolitics. Architecture & Mind in the Age of Communication and Information, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam.

Healy, S. 2010, 'Air-Conditioning and the 'homogenisation' of people and built environments', in Shove, E., Chappells, H. and Lutzenhiser, L. (eds), Comfort in a Lower Carbon Society, Routledge, London and New York, pp. 7-17.

Healy, S. 2012, 'Atmospheres of consumption: Shopping as Involuntary Vulnerability', Emotion Space and Society, published online (

Hirschman, A. O. 1977/1997, The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before its Triumph (Twentieth Anniversary Edition), Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.

Hynes, M. & Sharpe, S. 2010, 'Yea-saying laughter', Parallax, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 44-54.

Hynes, M., Sharpe, S & Fagan, R. 2007, 'Laughing with the Yes Men: The politics of affirmation', Continuum, vol. 21, no. 1, pp.107–121.

Hynes, M., Sharpe, S & Greg, A. 2008, 'Chasing democracy: Dissent, humour and APEC', Social Alternatives, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 34-38.

Jensen, T. 2011, 'On the emotional terrain of neoliberalism', Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, no. 8 (; accessed 4/2/13).

Kraftl, P. & Adey, P. 2008, 'Architecture/affect/inhabitation: Geographies of being-in buildings', Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 98, pp. 213-231.

Luke, T. 1995, 'On Environmentality: Geo-power and eco-knowledge in the discourses of contemporary environmentalism', Cultural Critique, no. 31, The Politics of Systems and Environments, Part II, pp. 57-81.

Massumi, B. 2002a, Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Duke University Press, Durham and London.

Massumi, B. 2002b, 'Navigating movements', in Zournazi, M. (ed), Hope: New Philosophies for Change, Lawrence and Wishart, London.

Massumi, B. 2005, 'The future birth of the affective fact', Conference Proceedings: Genealogies of Biopolitics October 2005 (; accessed 4/2/13).

Massumi, B. 2009, 'National enterprise emergency: Steps toward an ecology of powers', Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 26, no. 6, pp. 153–185.

Massumi, B. 2010, 'The future birth of the affective fact: The political ontology of threat', in Gregg, M. and Seigworth, G.J. (eds), The Affect Theory Reader, Duke University Press, Durham and London, pp. 52-70.

Maturana, H. and Varela, F. 1992, The Tree of Knowledge. Biological basis of Human Understanding, Shambhala, Boston, MA.

McDonald, K. 2006, Global Movements: Action and Culture, Blackwell, Malden MA, Oxford and Carlton VIC.

McManus, S. 2011, 'Hope, fear, and the politics of affective agency', Theory & Event, vol.14, no 4, (DOI: 10.1353/tae.2011.0060; accessed 4/2/13).

Ong, A. 2006, Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty, Duke University Press, Durham and London.

Pile, S. 2010, 'Emotions and affect in recent human Geography', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 35, pp. 5–20.

Protevi, J. 2009, Political Affect: Connecting the Social and Somatic. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Ruddick, S. 2010, 'The politics of affect: Spinoza in the work of Negri and Deleuze', Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 21- 45.

Sheller, M. 2004, 'Automotive emotions: Feeling the car', Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 21, nos. 4/5, pp. 221-242.

Sullivan, L.L. 2005, 'Activism, affect and abuse: Emotional contexts and consequences of the ESF 2004 Organising Process', Ephemera: theory & politics in organization, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 344-369.

Thrift, N. 2000, 'Still life in nearly present time: The object of nature', Body and Society, vol. 6, nos. 3/4, pp. 34-57.

Thrift, N. 2004, 'Intensities of feeling: Towards a spatial politics of affect', Geografiska Annaler, vol. 86 B, no. 1, pp. 57–78.

Torgeson, D. 1999, The Promise of Green Politics: Environmentalism and the Public Sphere, Duke University Press, Durham and London.

Wallenstein, S-O. 2009, Biopolitics and the Emergence of Modern Architecture, Buell Center/FORuM Project and Princeton Architectural Press, New York.