BOOK OF ABSTRACTS

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CONFERENCE BOOK OF ABSTRACTS

BARRETO Naraya and Ieda Tucherman: The Science Of Love: Reflections About a Physiology of Loving Discourse in Brazilian Media

Heart beat patters, breath and temperature rates, chemicals substances and a plant of hormones, in contemporary world physiological information have become synonymous of a new form of materializing affections and emotions have been described and diagnosed by a medical repertoire. In such field, the Brazilian media has presented rich examples of this speech. One of those examples is an article published in a magazine titled “Super Interessante”, a national periodic publication which has one of the largest circulation in the country. The article affirms that the part of the brain that becomes active when you fall in love with somebody is in the most primitive portion of this organ, where all survivors mechanism are and the “scientist have mapped part of the damage that it causes to our brain and even found a hormone that would be a true elixir of love”. After all, today it is all about the neurochemical understanding of each individual. Therefore, if there is a way of loving and a speech that are contemporary, how and where they circulate? Who draws up them? How they can be interpreted? In this sense, it is possible that the sociocultural transformations involving technology and the scientific discourse can glimpse flashes of answers to this question. Before, however, such as Alain Badiou (2010) elucidates, it must be understood that although threatened, there is still love, but its dynamic conditions and its transformations compel us to reinvent it. The spread of these discourses in Brazilian publications highlights the close relationship between media and science, where media gives visibility and science confers the prestige of enunciation. Just to quote a few latent data of this cultural and discursive scenario, in “Super Interessante” publications it is possible to find, between 2012 and 2014, more than thirty articles related to these theme, expanding questions about bodily substances for communicating and objectifying emotions, feelings and desires, something that relates to what Eva Illouz has chosen to call of “objectification of affections” (ILLOUZ, 2011). Thus, within its ruptures and displacements, three elements stand out as major constructors  of a colonization of love, especially in the media: the narrative, the new imaging technologies and biopolitics. In contemporary realm, these three factors merge together in what we call “somatic devices of love”, which work as operators of visuality and enunciation, conforming a “loving biosociability”. So, what lies at the heart of this reconfiguration of love? And how elements such as data, image and technology are making love discourse more different than ever? What appears to be the amalgam of this new love dynamic is the “connection” and not the “affective ties” anymore. Love is no longer about “flirting” that allows the “link”, but rather about the body physiology and in the neurochemical explanations that support a connection without experience or engagement, which can and should be ephemeral, multiple and flexible (TUCHERMAN, 2015, p. 4). The bodies are no longer the object of desire, they have become now the object of computing data, metrics, images and affective somatic forecasts. Thus, love as well as numerous other instances of human life turns into chemicals, temperatures, cardiac frequency and, why not, into colors as we can note in the “body mapping of affections” made by researchers of Aalto University, in Finland, where, according to the research, love is an intense yellow, like sunshine that seems to burn the body in its interior. Therefore, the proposal of this paper is an invitation to think and present a panorama of the discourses about love presented in Brazilian media. We also aim to build a culturally reflective diagnosis on these speeches. We intend to expose the main media articles cataloged in our survey and develop questions about the constant rhetoric which involves the somatic individual (ROSE, 2007, p. 25) and the way in which Brazil is associating subjectivity and affection to build, through the media, a particularly set about the understanding of the so called materiality of love. In order to provoke farther reflections, we question what is at stake in this field and what are the discursive operators that such publications have chosen to use to elaborate this imaginary? And how it can be interpreted?

This paper aims to overcome the palpable surface where love seems to rest in science, we follow the clear idea of Badiou in his precious “Éloge de l’amour”, “we need to reinvent it in the risk and in the difference” (BADIOU, 2010). So, how can we reinvent the risk in the era of metrically diagnosed and calculated love? If, as stated by another article in “Veja” magazine, “science has a less poetic understanding about love” would it be possible to find even a future humanly poetic, not materialized in the resonant colors of brains and hearts physiologically prognosticated? We must therefore seek ways to escape from the risk of a rainbow body, take it out of the laboratories and bring it to the possibility of experience, where there must be an alternative that can overcome the technical locus and imagery that surrounds contemporary love speech, assuming the challenge of discussing this speech and reinvent this affection without falling into a romantic nostalgia where the contemporary dynamics no longer fits.

COOKE Michèle: It’s a Body Thing. Language, Pain and Encultured Loving

The paper presents love as the foundation for a ‘theory of everything’ in the human domain. Based on Martin Buber’s concept of human relationing as moments of the lived present, and following Humber Maturana’s biology of love, in which loving, as the linchpin of our evolutionary emotioning, becomes the pivotal dimension of the human condition, I will discuss how love, as an innate bodily requirement, pervades all aspects of our reality and shapes both our individual and collective instantiations of humanness at any given time. Language, arising from the physiological necessity to love, i.e, to experience intimacy and trust, enhances the quality of our relational space while at the same time reminding us that the space also keeps us apart. Languaging thus reveals itself as a living, transitory yet perpetual expression of love which brings both comfort and pain. However, seen as a necessary corollary of love, pain can escape the dimension of negativity and become integrated as a further quality of lived love. As it reminds us of our existential solitude, pain at the same time leads us out of it by forcing us to accept the validity of other expressions of living and to recognise their relation to our own. In other words, pain, when it does not mutate into fear, strengthens our capacity for love. Defining love as a physiological necessity and a biological fact, far from relegating it to a rigid biological determinism, liberates it from the constraints of any theological or philosophical doctrine and allows it presence in a truly universal human spirituality. Love is essentially a relation which unites and embeds us in the real living world. As such it also transcends distinctions such as agape versus eros. Culture is what we make out of the nature of love, or our ways of relating to the ‘outside’ world and to one another. It is the respective cultural matrix that decides the ways in which language shapes our relating, both as thinking and doing. Thus the cultural matrix moulds our relational space and the way we live it with our bodies. Love is relational embodiment lived as encultured loving. Love has to be embodied because we are. The materiality of love is not simply its expression. Materiality is the sine qua non of living and therefore of loving.

ELLMITT Michele: The Materiality of Love: Brushing

Brushing hair against the skin, the scalp or the body in a linear or circular motion, softly, or firmly, with or against the grain. Brushing alone or with another, spontaneously or with intention to groom or to pleasure. What is it that is transferred? 

My research explores alternatives to conformity to nuclear family structures, investigating the ways individuals create meaning and conduct emotional and loving relationships within living arrangements that are configured socially rather than biologically. Love in social kinship relationships can be subject to oppression — partly invisible — by prevailing normative discourses, the nature of which is challenged by Stephen Hicks (2006) as hegemony of the “biogenetic basis of adult-child bonds”, or blood (p. 761).  Such discourses influence the ways social families can become intelligible in contemporary society, where definitions of complex emotional phenomena exceed common language usage.  Judith Butler asks, “What new schemes of intelligibility make our loves legitimate and recognisable?” (Butler 2000, p. 24).  My thesis is about possibilities of love that maintain themselves in spite of oppression. Some encounters are verbalised but many are materialised through physical interactions like brushing. My approach is through a creative writing research model. This is a nascent field where metaphor and inference of the unconscious or unspoken phenomena interact with materiality in the manner of art, which in my case is a culmination of cultural studies field research by interview and short story writing. As Kevin Brophy explains, following Julia Kristeva: writing and ideology interact as do writing and the unconscious, giving stories ambiguity and flexibility i.e. by tapping into “the play between semiotic and symbolic orders” which makes language and its discourses possible (Brophy, p. 182). My research involved ten field interviews. The creative writing component of the research involved writing a short story based on the material that arose in each interview, with a specific eye to emotional interactions, and the interviewees’ ways of materialising loving experiences. The participants were de-identified and contexts changed for the sake of the short stories. But I did retain a creative focus on the gaps, and slippages that arose in their interviews, “the silent murmuring, the inexhaustible speech that animates from within the voice that one hears” (Foucault, 1972, p. 27). This paper will focus on one story that investigates the manner in which individual lines of desire and possibilities of love operate within a non-biogenetic extended family.  This story, illustrating the role of material culture and affectionate fetishism — where matter interacts with conventions — explores a way around biogenetic privilege when forming loving attachments in an elective kin group on the brink of collapse. Complicated interchanges between both human and other subjects bring to light the role of material agents in the forming of loving attachments against normative discourses; as Alaimo and Hekman write, in relation to Susan Bordo “the physicality of bodies can itself beckon us toward more complex understanding of how the personal, the political, and the material are braided together” (Alaimo and Hekman, 2008, p. 16). In this story, “The Chickens,” a step mother and her family negotiate affection. Some human interactions falter; other, non-human connections succeed. “The gift is contact, sensuality: you will be touching what I have touched, a third skin unites us” (Barthes, 75).

GRATZKE Michael: Is there anything beyond emotional capitalism? Materialities of love in works by Thomas Melle and Leif Randt

Working with short fiction and novels by Thomas Melle (*1975) and Leif Randt (*1983), this paper will explore the ways in which love objects, “things” (Bill Brown) and fetishes alike are turned into consumer goods. Melle and Randt share an obsession with consumer capitalism; in the majority of their works its reach into the ways in which people relate to themselves and each other is described as virtually complete. Melle’s texts represent this near total reach as a form of colonialism. Outcasts such as the mentally ill still resist but their impact is but a ripple in the fluctuation of stock prices. However, by representing their struggles, literature preserves the notion of resistance and marks an inaccessible, yet necessary outside of “emotional capitalism” (Eva Ilouz). Melle frequently employs representations of disgust reactions to delineate the corporeal limits to the reach of capitalism. In Randt’s Schimmernder Dunst über ColbyCounty (2011) resistance itself has become part of the game. Hedonistic lifestyle options include hip, after-hours protest. The nylon-like skin of the lovers represents the seamless coverage of all forms of human endeavour and expression by consumer culture. The book ends with the protagonist and his love interest enjoying a cleansing session of vomiting in separate bathrooms. They will be ready to party again soon. If we follow Eva Illouz’ analysis, the shaping of love and the shaping of consumer behaviour are part of the same processes which have being going on at least since the 19th century. Taking this forward, the claim can be made that in English we don’t differentiate between the sentences “I love you.” and “I love these shoes.”, not because the former were a performative speech act and the latter a figurative use of “to love”, but precisely because there is not heuristic difference in the context of emotional capitalism. We choose our love objects like we choose our consumables to match our lifestyle aspirations. – Melle and Randt appear to depict a world in which emotions, practices, services and goods circulate endlessly to produce what we can call – using Foucault’s term – a love dispositif which sits flush with consumer capitalism. However, what happens when objects, goods, fetishes, even “things” are represented in the realm of fiction?  Literature can feature aspirational lifestyles; literature in itself is a consumer good. Randt’s protagonist works for good reasons in the marketing division of a publishing house. The whole genre of popular romance resembles an assembly line churning out consumables, the pornography of emotion. There nevertheless is a quality to fiction which not unlike a “thing” disrupts the flow of goods. Eco (1962) describes this as a fundamental “openness” of literary texts. Derrida (1993) uses the term “absolute secret” to denote that no artwork can be exhausted by interpretation. It follows that no truth regime, not even that of all-encompassing consumer society can contain the potentiality of all imaginable forms of love which may or may not be compatible with the workings of its love dispositif.

HAMPTON John G.: Love After Materialism

Love After Materialism is a screening of contemporary video art that arouses contemplation of love, longing, and desire after the virtualization of social relations. Taking a sincere (as opposed to a critical) approach to their work, Cécile B. Evans (Berlin/London), Karilynn Ming Ho (Vancouver), Jaakko Pallasvuo (Helsinki), and Heather Phillipson (London) offer insight into our contemporary capacity for closeness in the absence of physical proximity.

The materialism in Love After Materialism is twofold. First, it is a Marxist understanding of materialism; it is love after the ubiquity of capitalism and the accumulation of goods as a surrogate for emotional capital. Second, it is the physicality of material; it is love after the digitization of social interactions and how the lack of physical contact impacts our capacities for relating to others.

The works in this program provide emotional reflection on how the virtualization and monetization of social interaction has reconfigured our capacities for relating to others, for intimacy, and for love. They are unabashedly lyrical; using rhythm, poetry, song, and pop culture to seduce the viewer into a relationship with the presented subjects/images. They portray digitized, desiring bodies that hover in between the promise of immortality and the threat of obsolescence, creating slippages between sex, language, and consumption. Love After Materialism plays with the distancing effect of social technologies, materializing abstract longings, and virtual sentimentality in intimate interplays between virtualization, sexualization, and commodification in a virtual exchange through emotional economies of desire.

These works portray digitized, desiring bodies that hover in between the promise of immortality and the threat of obsolescence, creating slippages between sex, language, and consumption. Love After Materialism plays with the distancing effect of social technologies, materializing abstract longings, and virtual sentimentality in intimate interplays between virtualization, sexualization, and commodification in a virtual exchange through emotional economies of desire. In an era of new materialism and object-oriented philosophy, where theorists are looking increasingly to the power/agency of things, Love After Materialism re-examines the material consequences of one of the original abstractions. Divorcing the substance of love from the object of a human body, these works ultimately drift into articulations of loss, echoing the familiar love for a subject who is no longer physically present.

This screening is sponsored by Trinity Square Video and will be followed by a short talk by curator John G. Hampton.

HOWE Adrian: (Dis) Affectionate Fetishism – Possessive Love in ‘Othello’

           That handkerchief 

Did an Egyptian to my mother give,

She was a charmer and could almost read

The thoughts of people. She told her, while she kept it

Twould make her amiable and subdue my father

Entirely to her love; but if she lost it

Or made a gift of it, my father’s eye

Should hold her loathed, and his spirits should hunt

After new fancies.

Othello 3 .4.54-62

How love is materialised was analysed and dramatized to brilliant effect in Shakespeare’s Othello as numerous scholars have noted. Kenneth Burke, for example, famously argued that Othello’s stake in Desdemona is essentially about fetishistic ownership:

…a tragic trinity of ownership in the profoundest sense of ownership, the property in human affections, as fetishistically localised in the object of possession, while the possessor is himself possessed by his very engrossment (1951: 166-7).

His fear of cuckoldry and obsessive jealousy are inextricably bound with fear of loss in the deepest sense, the loss of property in human (read: women’s) affection. Reading The Age of Shakespeare’ as ‘the Age of Commodity Fetishism’, Douglas Bruster suggests that with the commodification of the personal, acute anxiety about cuckoldry becomes intimately related to the loss of identity suffered by property-obsessed male characters, notably Othello, busy fetishising their objects of desire. And in an intriguing reading of Othello as an exploration of the operation of commodity fetishism, Paul Yachnin singles out Othello’s fetishisation of Desdemona’s handkerchief. Placing the handkerchief in the context of early modern England’s fetishised trade in textiles, Yachnin suggests that all the characters except Othello see the handkerchief as marketable goods. By contrast, Othello views it as a wondrous object, an object of great emotional intensity signifying love, or more exactly, anxiety about lost love. Indeed, to understand the particular mystery of Desdemona’s fetishised handkerchief we need to recognise that the handkerchief’s properties are ‘continuous with the properties of love’, possessive love:

Were Desdemona an object like the handkerchief, Othello could possess her, but so could anyone else, and in any case she would then be a ‘common thing’ like the handkerchief, certainly not the inimitable treasure for which Othello happily sacrifices his ‘unhoused free condition’(1996: 203).

On the other hand, if she is not an object, then she is a self-possessed subject, ‘free to give herself away to another’. But if she is her own private property, then ‘her defining attribute—her honour—becomes as detachable as her handkerchief’. As Iago says, the handkerchief, ‘being hers/She may, I think, bestow’t on any man’, leaving Othello to despair: ‘She is protectress of her honour too/May she give that?’ (4.1.11-14). What a dilemma, as Yachnin explains: ‘No possible permutation is able to unburden heterosexual love of the contradictions involved in the patriarchal ownership of women, who are also required to be owners of themselves’ (1996: 203). When the handkerchief is used to prove Desdemona’s infidelity, it becomes ‘ocular proof’ against her, something that ‘the desirable thingness of the handkerchief has already inscribed as inevitable in heterosexual relations’. Cuckoldry is thus ‘destiny unshunnable, like death’ (3.3.278):

It is the fate of every man to invest his all in the vexed figure of Woman, she who is unique because she is a rare object and ‘common’ because she is a subject…the vexing constitution of Othello’s selfhood on the basis of heterosexual mutuality is no different from anyone else’s—it is only that his terminology is strangely revealing. (1996: 204)

Strangely revealing indeed. Revisiting this spectacular Shakespeare scholarship, this paper provides insight into how materiality impacts the understanding of love and affection, or more particularly disaffection, in western societies today.

JANSDOTTER Jenny and André Jansson: Depicting Intimacy: The Digital Materiality of Love

The interconnected space of the Internet and the functional convergence of mobile media technologies have radically transformed communication in everyday life. The growing variety of media at our fingertips (cf. a polymedia situation, Madianou & Miller) reinforces the tension between empowerment and obligation (as an aspect of mediatization). Furthermore, the everyday condition of media dependency for sustaining strong ties reinvigorates the discussion on love, intimacy and mediality. This paper examines the mediated experiences that comprise one emotional arena articulating belonging of/in the world of highly mobile elite academics that spend a lot of time physically separated from their partners. The materiality of text, audio and video messages is problematized as they may be stored, leaving an, possibly unintentional, un-erasable, retrievable, poetic digital trace. Also, ethnographic investigation into matters that are geographically, culturally and/or emotionally close is an intricate task demanding high levels of reflexivity to create necessary distance. One may ask to what extent and under what circumstances the availability and affordances of image and/or audio involves new potentials for documenting and representing intimacy, understood as the imagined inclusion of the other in the self (Schütz) and authenticity through ethnographic research. The current paper is part of the on-going research project Kinetic Élites: The Mediatization of Social Belonging and Close Relationships among Mobile Class Fractions. The project sets out to illuminate a vastly omitted aspect of the world of mobile élite groups, namely the significance of interpersonal media practices for sustaining and negotiating close (love) relationships at times of prevalent and/or repetitious physical absence from peers. Comparative research is carried out within the social fields of corporate business, international development/diplomacy and academia. This paper discusses the ethnographic prospects of using (multi)mediated representational techniques for analysing phenomena that are (a) of a private nature and (b) related to a familiar social field. Accordingly, issues of both intimacy and proximity are brought to the fore. Power relations of the researcher and subject of research will be scrutinized, allowing for socio-cultural cross projections by including ourselves as researchers in the study, when assessing the affordances of mediated methods. Aside from using photography and audio, we write and record a diary of expectations, experiences and thoughts during the whole process of fieldwork.

 JYRKIÄINEN Senni:  Online Presentation of Gendered Selves among Young Egyptian Females

In Egyptian society, a decent moral reputation is valuable symbolic capital for anyone, but especially for young unmarried women. Dating takes place among “open-minded” young people, as they often call themselves, but is simultaneously a practice that can potentially harm that reputation. Highly-educated youths are active users of social media and to them, Facebook has become an important arena of mixed-gender social interaction. While the yearning for romance and love are visible on Facebook, intimate relationships are sometimes kept secret from the public.

Consequently, females who are involved in dating practices use Facebook in impression management. For them, masking of aspects of their behavior that may be condemned as morally inappropriate has become a strategy to navigate through certain moral expectations directed towards young females. Women who look for love and romantic relationships and yet edit their Facebook profiles in order to conform to the prevailing norms of decency can be called cynical performers in Goffman’s words. For them, the embellishment of the self is a pragmatic solution to the challenge of coping with existing dating practices and conflicting norms of proper gender interaction, often understood as Islamic.

This paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Alexandria, Egypt. It is a work in progress and is related to the PhD project of the author.

KAPUSTA Nestor D.: The Psychoanalytic Concept of the Capacity to Love: How Real Objects Shape Our Inner World

There is no doubt that love as a phenomenon exists ubiquitary. Love is seen across all cultures and seems to be a basal universal mode of communication between humans. Luhmann (1982) described love as a symbolically generalized communication medium encoding various social modes of intimacy such as idealizing love, paradoxic love and a self-referential mode of intimate expression. In which form ever the actions of love are conceptualized and understood, it remains to elucidate which conditions are necessary to develop the capacity to love throughout the course of life. Psychoanalytic object relations theory (Greenberg and Mitchell, 1983) is a useful theoretical framework to describe the development of the capacity to love starting with the very first mother-infant-dyad and the interaction within this intimate relationship between the loving mother and the love-demanding child. More than every other psychoanalytic theory, experiences with real (material) objects shape our inner world. The development of the capacity to love is tightly connected to the psychic development and various mental functions such as forgiveness, gratitude, mature dependency and sexual passion (Kernberg, 2011). The starting point of object relations theory is the very early ability to incorporate real objects and to develop representations of others and self within the emerging psychic structure. Fairbairn (2001) by criticizing and reformulating Sigmund Freuds theory of drives, developed a theory of self and object relations based on the assumption that the ego takes in objects by splitting off corresponding parts of the ego which can be either exciting or anti-libidinal. Thus, internal structures of object-self-dyads develop continuously into a psychic structure. Experiences of bad objects with a corresponding aggressive affect and anti-libidinal ego parts are memorized in the unconscious and form a sort of an aggressive reservoir which is reactivated each time a similar real situation occurs. On the other hand, exciting and libidinal aspects are memorized and reactivated in similarly pleasurable situations. Then, a personality is capable to react with both tendencies (love and hate or libido and aggression) in relationships towards real and material as well as towards imagined objects (Jacobson, 1954). Inherent to the mature capacity to love, is the capability to overcome aggressive tendencies and frustration, in form of forgiveness, humility and reparation after destruction (Kernberg, 2011). One prerequisite to love is the full recognition of one’s own aggressive and passionate tendencies to control the possessively loved object. Another condition is the capability of acceptance of its loss. More than ever, our society is about to materialize human relations and subjects into objects (objectification) which can be built, manipulated and destroyed. This development is reflected by terms such as “Online Dating”, “In-vitro-fertilization”, “Plastic Surgery“, “Human Resources”, “Funeral Marketing”, or even by the attempt to empirically measure the “Capacity to Love”. Such objectification represents a materiality of love which is an oral cannibalistic attempt to incorporate the pleasurable part of the object relation and thus create the feeling of an omnipotent phantasy.

KNIGHT Kimberley-Joy: Love on a stick: The role of runic twigs in constructing and maintaining relationships in Medieval Scandinavia

Medieval runic inscriptions on scraps of wood or ‘twigs’ have been unearthed across Scandinavia. A significant number of these finds contain messages provide an insight into licit and clandestine interactions. These disposable inscriptions range from the sexually crude, to expressions of unrequited love, homosexuality, adultery, and betrothal, and demonstrate the ways in which love and desire were communicated in the high Middle Ages. Runologists have devoted much time to translating the inscriptions, concerned more with the philology than the material form. Yet, these humble, emotionally charged artefacts played an important role in constructing and maintaining relationships. It is everyday activities and objects that shape and define cultural identity. The runic twigs were more than their inscriptions alone, they were quotidian pieces that were exchanged, touched, held, viewed, admired, enjoyed, loved, loathed, recycled and cast off. Using an integrated approach that focuses on the material but draws on visual and textual aspects of the runic twigs, this paper will analyse how they produced, affirmed and expressed relationships, arguing that they played a fundamental role in practicing and conceptualising love in medieval Scandinavia.

KOWALSKA Kinga: Embodied Soulmarks and Social Expectations: The Materialization of Romantic Anticipation and Disappointment in Soulmate AU Fanfiction

Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half.  (Plato, Symposium)

The idea of a perfect romantic match dates back to Plato, who proposed in his Symposium that each of us is but one half of a person and is never whole until meeting the one that completes them. This notion has only gained in popularity in today’s society, fueling its obsessive fixation with romantic love and its endeavors. Brad Hastings, when discussing destiny, remarks that most of his students are of the belief that they each possess a destined soulmate (2008). This belief has been widely exploited in various works of popular fiction (more or less explicitly in stories such as The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Nifenegger, or the film Serendipity directed by Peter Chelsom), supporting Eva Illouz’s idea of a Romantic Utopia as the commodified glorification of romantic attachment (1997). Soulmates, in a very literal and explicit manner, are particularly popular in fanfiction. The Soulmate AU (Alternative Universe) is a term used to describe a mode of romance-oriented fan storytelling, which makes use of imaginary worlds where the existence of a predestined romantic match is manifested through physiology, usually in the form of soulmarks on the skin, name tattoos, or various physical reactions upon contact with one’s soulmate. The aim of this paper is to discuss this type of fanfiction in literary terms, approaching it via the lens of love studies, and focusing on the physical and anticipatory aspect of love presented in such stories. I propose that the Soulmate AU is a reflection, and sometimes a discussion, of the capitalistic commodification of romantic love and its heightened relevance in today’s society. An examination of selected Soulmate AU fanfiction based on BBC’s Sherlock shows that the soulmarks or other physical signs indicating one’s soulmate are not a representation of biological compatibility leading to procreation, but rather a spiritual connection elevating romantic love to the highest goal in life. This glorification of love is achieved through the alternate reality worldbuilding, which centers on incorporating the soulmarks in a variety of cultural practices, such as ritual use of colour-coded rings, gloves, and other concealing objects indicating the status of the person wearing them, belief in a preferred age for finding one’s soulmate, or social distrust for individuals without a mark or a soulmate. The Foucauldian cultural inscription on the physical soulmarks creates a socially constructed expectation for romantic fulfillment as the ultimate value, and leads to feelings of inadequacy when not conforming to the norm. A thematic analysis of both typical and subversive examples of Soulmate AU fanfiction leads to the conclusion that the soulmarks, being at the same time physical and semantically saturated, literally embody and materialize the anticipation for romantic bliss discussed by Illouz (2012), making the Soulmate AU an extremely „vivid” representation of the circle of expectation and disappointment of the Romantic Utopia, clear and inevitable both to the characters and to the reader.

MASŁOŃ Sławomir: Hans Bellmer’s Dolls: The Physical Unconscious and the Question of Reality

In 1930s Hans Bellmer constructs a series of dolls which is the first step in his research on the repressed and the irrational in the relation with the other. Using two familiar Romantic motifs of the doll coming alive (Hoffmann) and the mechanical as more perfect than the natural (Kleist), Bellmer transforms them radically (his dolls are “monstrous,” not perfect) in order to display the material workings of love and desire as they originate in what he will later call the physical unconscious. The basic principle on which the construction of the doll rests is Bellmer’s idea of the instinctual doubling of the image of excitation which introduces an uncanny doubling between the lover and the object of his love: in order that the shock of recognition happens (for the doll to come alive) the woman has to become a lead mirror so that the man can see her radiant image in it. That is, in order to make it real, the mirror is to reflect the image in which they become coextensive (“the object which is identical only to itself is not real” – Bellmer). This can happen only if the lover’s image has been “digested” by the physical unconscious of the man – in other words, according to Bellmer, the whole body, not only the mental sphere, participates in the processes of perception and imagination (cognition). The effect of this process is a necessary modification of the “original” image which the physical unconscious tries to project/find in the lead mirror which the loved object is. The construction of the doll, therefore, is an experiment: unlike a living body it can be subjected to various mutations, irrational compositions and decompositions which allow it to be a tool in mapping the anatomy of desire (irrational by definition) unavailable in ordinary sexual/amorous practices.

MYDLA Jacek: The Chances of Love’s Return in a World of Vanishing Materiality   

Love’s tissue is a combination of brittle and impervious. Thus, a living & live paradox. A cohabitation of evanescent & lasting. Love is essentially related to time: To paraphrase Othello’s description of jealousy: love mocks the meat (i.e. time) it feeds on. It is, according to the metaphor in Donne’s “Canonization”, both the burning candle and the fly that dies in its flame. The Renaissance immortalizing love poem is a means of capturing Lore’s Paradox, or Love as Paradox. The Platonic impulse in Shakespeare’s sonnets, based on and made possible by a person’s confrontation of so-called ravages of time, is expressed in the imagery of mirror, clock and wrinkles. Contemporary expressions and embodiments (materialised fantasies) of humanity’s dreams of immortality deprive love of the material component. The paper examines how the idea of love has been affected by the vanishing of materiality in the contemporary world, a world redefined and dominated by embodiments of fantasy which have replaced natural temporal processes.

PETTMAN Dominic: Creaturely Love: How Desire Makes Us More, and Less, Than Human

From a certain angle, “the materiality of love” is something of a paradox or oxymoron. Our traditional narratives of love have, on the whole, diligently placed affection or passion on the side of abstract idealism, ineffable emotion, or the nebulous, virtual commerce of souls. (Leaving the meat of the matter to the messiness of sex.) Having previously emphasized the mechanics of love, as a specific and tangible configuration of communications media, I now seek to bracket technology, at least for a little while. I do this in order to explore some of the ways that love is inflected by and through bodies that are too restless, troubled, and/or excited to settle on a merely human ontology. (While duly acknowledging that the body has its own type of technics.) The focus for this latest project is thus the semiotic-material nexus of the (loved) creaturely body: suspended somewhere between the subhuman, the posthuman, the infrahuman, the nonhuman, and the superhuman. Informed by recent developments in affect theory, animal studies, and the new materialism, this approach asks a suite of questions of the “object of desire” – especially relating to its objectness (as well as its objections, and its objectivity) – in order to highlight the complex materiality of love.

My paper thus posits and sketches the figure of “creaturely love,” ultimately arguing thatall love – whether between a man and a woman, a woman and another woman, or a transgender person and a cat – can be considered essentially creaturely (or inhuman). It thus seeks to expand the circle of the “lover’s discourse” – so beautifully detailed by Roland Barthes – to include non-humans; while simultaneously demonstrating some instances in literature, philosophy, and art where intense, transitive affection between humans threatens to dismantle the rigid ideological distinctions between species. This paper will thus discuss some key moments in which animals have played allegorical roles in our own libidinal economy, and how these can either fortify or compromise the resilient humanist engine which powers Giorgio Agamben’s “anthropological machine.” The goal of the project is to track some of the ways in which our own dormant or repressed animality has provided the material-conceptual reservoir for emotions and expressions that (disingenuously) seek to reinforce our sense of human exceptionalism. At the same time, it seeks to identify some moments in our various media archives where creaturely love is not so much used as a figure of disgust or disavowal, but rather constitutes an unfulfilled lover’s promise, all-too often only whispered beneath the noisy exclamations of human ardor. Creaturely love, I will argue, is thus a form of under-recognized mutual attunement which can help us better navigate the more abject aspects of contemporary life: specifically, narrowly presented biopolitical modes of affection within and between beings.

PIECZKA Dominika: From Technophobic Foreplay to the Dematerialised (Ideal)

For several decades now, we have been very much aware that we live in the era of technological revolution and global restructuring, that the changes taking place around us are happening at breakneck speed, and that the transformations are inevitable. These changes, according to Kellner and Best, comparable in scope to the shifts produced by the Industrial Revolution, are “moving the world into a postindustrial, infotainment, and biotech mode of global capitalism, organized around new information, communications, and genetic technologies.” The modern world requires us to desert our familiar presumptions and systems in order to grasp the emerging concepts of the new order: sciences, cultures, social and political structures, as well as our identities and even the most intimate spheres of life. All of which need new modes of representation. Thus, my paper focuses on the role of love, sexuality, and their dematerialized incarnations in the era of first re-imagined and then re-invented technology, as (re)presented in selected works of fiction. And since – as we read in “The Sexual Life of a Cyborg” by Dr Arthur Kudlatz – the brain is the most effective of all sexual organs, capable of producing and satisfying any desire, making sense of and giving forms to sexual contacts, transforming the body and expanding the scope of sensual experience, this very bundle of folded tissue and its potential shall remain the core of my interest.

SALT Yvonne: Love Migrants and Love Objects

The Love Migration Project focuses on people who migrate for love. The aim of the research is to understand people’s experiences of love, place and migration. Couples are asked to choose an object, which has some meaning in the context of their relationship as the starting point for a narrative interview. This paper will look at couples’ narratives of love as told through and by objects, as such it will pose questions on the material qualities of love. Asking participants to choose an object which has some meaning for them in the context of their relationship to talk about is an unusual way of eliciting narratives which will leave room for ’emotional spaces’ (Morrison 2012: 61) that more traditional methods might not.  Interviewing couples produces mutually constructed narratives and my theory is that narratives of love are a specific and particular type of narrative as to speak of a relationship is to always already be representing oneself within the perceived gaze of another. Narratives of love involve particular kinds of embodied knowledge, which I am exploring in part through the ways which couples interact with the objects during the interviews. The paper will explore how the objects chosen might represent the relationship in terms of key moments, emotional work, and haptic knowledge. The way the participants represent themselves and their relationship in this way reflects the idea that how we think about our intimate relationships is always already informed by media, education, received and sanctioned social theory (e.g. Berlant 2012).  As such, love is understood as inextricably bound up with selfhood and, therefore, self-representation and must be understood within past and current cultural norms, as well as an individual’s own understanding of their life path (e.g. Clare Langhamer, The English in Love, 2012).

ŞENEL Burcu and Burcu Şimşek: Love is…  Here and Now with Digital Stories

Digital stories are generally two or three minute autobiographical stories created by participants through combining their individual voices with the images/photographs they choose or produce in a workshop environment facilitated by a facilitator team. As a means of opening up new paths for the creation and circulation of counter-hegemonic narratives, digital storytelling has been an alternative tool especially for gender issues. Through giving voice to the experiences of the persons/groups who are silenced, marginalized, misrepresented or not represented in mainstream media, digital storytelling became a movement around the world through the engagement of both academic cycles as well as NGOs. In this paper, focusing on the “Love is…” Digital Storytelling Workshop that we facilitated at Hacettepe University Digital Storytelling Workshop Unit in April 2014 with the participation of two homosexual men and a bisexual woman, we aim to concentrate on the ‘invisible’ narratives of love from Ankara, Turkey through the digital stories created by our participants. First, we discuss how our participants share their own experiences of being gay/bisexual in Turkey, the myths and stereotypes upon different sexual orientations and the discrimination and violence they are surrounded with in each corner of their everyday lives. Furthermore, questioning the problems they face and the practices they find to cope with these problems in addition to their everyday life tactics for resistance through the narratives of our participants, we take a look at how our participants open new paths to move ahead as the subjects of their lives. Finally, we suggest how empowering digital stories can be for the others who share the same or similar experiences of invisible love with the storytellers of these digital stories, which is kept outside everyday life through heteronormativity. The online circulation of digital stories via our website https://vimeo.com/dijitalhikayeler and offline-face to face screenings of digital stories against homophobia help bringing these issue to the front, making them visible and heard for all.

SKOVBJERG PALDAM Camilla: Substituting Bodies – Mediation of Love and Eroticism in the Love Letter and New Media

Love and desire feed on absence, on longing, while it constantly and simultaneously tries to diminish the distance by different means. Media may, according to German art historian and media theorist Hans Belting, be seen as technical or artificial bodies designed for substituting bodies through a symbolic procedure (Belting 2006, 306). This paper will suggest that love letters work as substitutes for bodies; that the lover in her/his burning desire for presence animates the letters, as Belting would say, and feels a presence both during writing, reading and in the indexical materiality of the actual letter. However, the wish for presence, immediacy and transparency in epistolary exchanges is (of course) illusive. Blanks in and between the love letters give room for projection; the image of the beloved provided by the letters is a construction rather than a transparent transfer. Taking Franz Kafka’s letters to Milena and James Joyce’s letters to Nora as main examples (but drawing on an archive of more than 3500 love letters, written and collected within the last 20 years, covering four European nationalities), this paper addresses the rhetoric of the love letter – its different purposes, ways of communication, and meta-reflections on writing, media, absence and presence. The paper will address how love and the beloved are mediated in the articulated desire and longing of love letters. And finally it will reflect on what it means for communication of love and desire that the media landscape has changed and that it now, instead of traditional letters, are media technologies as SMS, email and Skype that  are used in order to overcome of the bodily absence between lovers. In What do pictures want? The lives and loves of images (2005) J. W. T. Mitchell writes about pictures as “vital signs”, not signs for living things, but signs as living things (Mitchell 2005, 6). With a notion from Belting this symbolic act can be called “animation”, defined as “an innate (and learnable) ability of our bodies to discover life in inanimate images” (Belting 2012, 188). Lovers want transparency when they Skype; typically they will try not to focus on the computer screen and its two-dimensional mediating interface. The screen is what Mitchell would call an “object” – “the material support in or on which an image appears”. In this situation the object is only a necessary evil. The body that animates the lover is the image on the screen. However there are other sorts of animation, where our relation to the medium is not just one of negligence. When we for instance caress a photo of our beloved, when we carry it in a medallion close to our breast, treasure the handwritten letter, or clench the mobile phone with mails, pictures and messages at night, then it is because we let the medium become a body; a prosthesis for the beloved. We animate the “picture” consisting of “object” and “image” in total.

STĘPIEŃ Justyna: ‘In and Out of Love’. Damien Hirst’s Affective Materialization of the Concept of Love

In his attempts to reframe the concept of love, Damien Hirst incites extreme emotional responses from his viewers, opening up new universes in his works of art. As the title of one of his works indicates, we can be „in” but also „out” while experiencing love. In such conditions, the understanding of love depends on the level of the viewers’ engagement in the artistic process. Analyzed from this perspective, Hirst’s work can be considered as a “living sculpture” that maps a range of connections a thing is capable of. Above all, his work of art operates as a fissure in representational processes, providing a visual stimulus for feelings rather than ideas. This sensational effect is amplified by an impersonal language and the title that become part of the work’s embodiments, eventually activating contrasting meanings. The paper gives insight into Hirst’s selected works of art that redefine a contemporary conceptualization of love, engaging us directly with the non-representational experience. As the study proves, his works transgress commercial and material value of love to expand its invisible meaning and bring it closer to what life really is. In this manner, Hirst’s works eventually trigger the formation of new modalities of subjectivity exposed to bundles of affects to prove, referring here to Deleuze and Guattari, that the work of art is…a block of sensations that needs to be reactivated by a spectator or participant . Hence, the reasoning about what love is and what it might mean is immanent to our experience.

SZATANIK Zuanna: Animal, Agency, Affection. A Reading of Margaret Atwood’s ‘Blackie in Antarctica’ and ‘Mourning for Cats’

Pet is a pet first, an animal second. (Erica Fudge)

“Anyone who likes dogs or cats is a fool” write Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus (qtd. in Haraway 29), as if they were wary of the verb “to love.” For the two thinkers a pet is “the ultimate figure of abjection” (Haraway 30), an “overly-humanized” (Fudge 102), Oedipal representation of an animal, and “the very type of the sentimental” (Haraway 30). When it is liked, it is liked as “a deanimalized creature that has been stripped of its original virile wildness and tamed into a ‘feminine’ and inauthentic servitude” (Weil 56). It is then “either sterilized or sexually isolated, extremely limited in its exercise, deprived of almost all other animal contact, and fed with artificial foods” (Berger qtd. in Weil 54). Bred, sold, bought, coiffed, microchipped, and euthanized, a pet is legal property which can be lost and replaced. Such representations of pets as “products of and subjects to the abuse of power” (Weil 55) have, however, been countered by the recent contributions to the field of human-animal studies, which have strived to redefine anthropomorphism and, by extension, the relation between animals and humans. Anthropomorphism, in the words of Nik Taylor, has been “a dirty word of the scientific discourse” (266). Only a fool can like a pet which, by definition, is likeable for the human characteristics mistakenly projected upon it. Recently, however, anthropomorphism started to be appreciated as a threat to the time-honored borderline separating humans from animals. Simultaneously, current scientific research has recognized that “many kinds of animals are much more self-aware, much more conscious, than we have—in our human arrogance—tended to assume” (Birke 8). The shift towards anthropomorphism and towards the establishing of “contact zones” between the species, has opened a door for emotions and feelings—empathy, sympathy, and love—that humans can have for animals. Accordingly, the aim of this article is to ponder human-animal affections on the basis of two poems by Margaret Atwood—“Blackie in Antarctica” and “Mourning for Cats”—from her last collection entitled The Door (2007).

WIERZCHOWSKA Justyna: Exploring Female Affectionate Fetishism: Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document (1973–79) and the Material Narrative of Love

Drawing on observations by Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Eva Illouz, Margaret Iversen, and Lucy Lippard, I want to discuss American visual artist Mary Kelly’s autobiographical work Post-Partum Document in reference to affectionate fetishism. Embedded in the Lacanian psychoanalysis, Post-Partum Document records the first five years of Kelly’s son’s life: from his weaning from the breast until the day when he wrote his name. In my presentation, I want to focus on the function of material objects (baby’s vests, his scribbles, recording of his early speech, pieces of blankets and linens etc.) that in Post-Partum Document Kelly juxtaposed with pseudo-scientific language in which she described experiences associated with particular material objects. This juxtaposition demonstrates the narrative incompatibility of fetishized objects on the one hand and (pseudo-scientific) language on the other in retelling the post-partum mother/child relation. This incompatibility becomes especially vivid in Part Four of Post-Partum Document  in which the artist traces via language her and her son’s anxiety of separation, documenting it on “transitional objects,” “comforting fetishes,”  or “objects of desire’ (Iversen) such as the son’s blanket scraps. In the words of Lucy Lippard, viewing Kelly’s collection of fetish-objects evokes a “simultaneity of sensual immediacy and immediate nostalgia.” Kelly’s use of strongly cathected material objects also testifies to the limits of language which is unable to effectively express an experience verging on the mental and bodily, in which a woman is physically separated from her child only to gradually work out a new sense of identity formed through their evolving relationship. According to the artist herself, this material&linguistic record of mother/child relation has “minimum sign value in relation to the commodity status of representational art” and “a maximum affective value in relation to the libidal economy of the unconscious.” Thus Kelly’s use of very private “vestigial signs” (Iversen) also testifies to the traumatic dimension of the early mother/child  experience  in which they have to “lose one another” in order for the child to enter the Lacanian Symbolic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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