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Theorizing Impasse: Affect, Agency, Politics

Schaefer, Hanna Antonia; (2021) Theorizing Impasse: Affect, Agency, Politics. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Drawing on a variety of theoretical and literary sources, my thesis develops the notion of the ‘impasse’ to address the affective atmosphere of the present as it unfolds across the Euro-Atlantic world. The impasse points to the experience of living in and through this present—a space of time in which continuity continues, so to speak, but tainted by a sense of socio-economic and ecological fragility. As a conceptual heuristic, the idea of the impasse is conceived as a counterpoint to two interrelated tendencies in political theory: the use of tropes of trauma and catastrophe to describe the crisis-shaped present and an emphasis on rupture and radical discontinuity to think about political change. Through critical comparisons of works by a variety of thinkers, literary authors and artists, I argue the following: (1) realities of intensifying inequalities often emerge in less dramatic ways than scholars drawn to limit events allow for. Rather than focusing on moments of radical negativity, I examine subtler, less acute ways of being and feeling, such as states of drift, irresolution and impassivity. These states, I argue, contribute toward a more comprehensive account of contemporary subjectivity. (2) The impasse calls for a critical framework that in its attention to temporal experiences of ongoingness supplements critical imaginaries bent on scenes of transgression and the sense of change they entail. It asks us to think through the slowness of chronic time, rather than the time of rupture, and the conflicting rhythms of ambivalence, rather than the unambiguous embrace of action. (3) Without renouncing a commitment to social transformation, then, my thesis advances the notion of the impasse as a concept that not only claims descriptive purchase but which also, reflexively, elicits a mode of reading and writing that slows down the movement between interpretive claim and political practice.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Theorizing Impasse: Affect, Agency, Politics
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10122144
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