Sometime after the year 2000, someone asked us how to make a feel tank, so we thought we‚Äôd make a feel tank tool kit, and a shorthand among us emerged to call it a feelkit. To make a feeltank is to make a local scene dedicated to thinking about the ways that affect and emotion are always connected to the building of worlds, the perpetuation of publics, and the pleasures and activities of living on in anything social, from the couple form to neighborhoods, networks, activist groups. It‚Äôs to try to think about the sociality of emotion in relation to the activity of power. For us in Chicago, it has focused on thinking about the negative emotions, from apathetic detachment to political rage, as substantive expressions of a desire for the political to be a space for optimism about better justice and conditions for living. But other feel tanks have focused on other transformative terms. Feel Tank Austin sent us a list of their keywords, for example, which included : Sex, Structure, Ideology, Disposition, Flow, Tact, Impact; Becomings, Ordinary; Routine; Melodrama; Domesticity; Depression; History. See MANIFESTO. OPTIMISM. THAI FOOD.
Thus all feeltanks are not identical, have loose connections to each other, have had fruitful collaborations, and histories of rising and falling intensity amongst themselves. When groups enter into a loose connectivity and consider themselves generally to have similar justice aims or better world aims they are often called: affinity groups. Affinity is such a great word to describe an aspect of what Paul Gilroy calls conviviality _or Nigel Thrift calls the _kindness _of the contemporary city: an agreement to act as though one feels a general solidarity with the people in whatever your vicinity is, a solidarity that one demonstrates by living it rather than making it via treaties or projects. (Zizek, more negatively, calls this _as if democracy.) Ironically, the word affinity comes from the word affine, which means ‚Äúrelated, or a relation, by marriage, lit. ‚Äòbordering upon,‚Äô f. ad to + f n-is end, border.ÔøΩ? Affinity groups ‚Äúborder uponÔøΩ? each other, without the legal sanction of having had a central group be legitimated in the eyes of a state or the law. We are affined because we had a project of social change we recognized an aspect of in what you do. We are not affined because we are so fine, although maybe we are.
Within affinity group clusters the agreement not to be the same but to think that the flourishing of a set of projects would contribute to making a better good life means that critique and dissensus might actually be felt as strengthening the general project rather than threatening its legitimacy. David Graeber calls this the new anarchism, this loosely simultaneous network of justice activists that has withdrawn consent to the hegemonic power bloc‚Äôs desire to absorb into its logic our desire for a flourishing publicness dedicated to better justice. Other people call the virtual part of this slacktivism, sometimes disrespectfully. It depends on what kinds of affect one attaches to words like STRUGGLE and REVOLUTION and PROCESS.
To tell you the story of this keyword required mobilizing other people‚Äôs concepts. When Raymond Williams did it it required a radical philological historicism that explained why words we are used to thinking about in way x have had a varied life, changing their meanings in response to changes in the mode of production of value and the organization of social life. Our practice, in this feeltank toolkit, is less disciplined than that. Because whatever it does, a keyword project reveals not only how much varied language about politics and the social gets thrown around, but how much of it is really placeholder language to open up a discussion about what‚Äôs important analytically and politically. The tradition of the keyword genre admits the nontransparency of the language we cannot not use to be political. (That sentence was a joke about nontransparency: a more straightforward version of it is that our most important concepts are rich and complex, but we have to use them to produce analyses and imaginaries as though we have general agreement about their sense even though at the same time we are precisely working out what better sense they might be able to make.) The keyword genre admits that communication proceeds even when the very terms of debate are obscure even to the users. Desire is released in the attempt to communicate what I might have meant before I opened meaning up to discussion.
What kind of resource is the feel tank toolkit? We want the feelkit to be a resource for political imaginaries and praxis, which could end up looking like a lot of different things: make a list
In sum: the feelkit is not a cookbook, an encyclopedia, or even a Wikipedia for the Politically Depressed. It speaks in different voices. Each term provides an anchor not for a definition, but a thinkpiece that means to open up the term for future thinking or working with, to vitalize or animate what‚Äôs always unfinished in the concept. By the way, we write this in a golden age of keywords projects: (MAKE LIST HERE) What is it about the contemporary moment that people are rushing to publish narratives that redefine every term deemed key to the understanding of history, power, the planet, and contemporary life?