On (not) knowing what is to be done (in 17 affective registers)

Author: Deborah Gould1
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  • 1 University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
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What is the sound of (not) knowing what is to be done, and what effects do expressions of knowingness or uncertainty have, especially on the formation of activist publics and their subsequent collective doings? This article explores a number of political discourses – from the right, left and centre – in the hopes of illuminating the sounds, affects and effects of (not) knowing what is to be done. In a world that has passed from ‘actually existing socialism’ to ‘the end of history’ to the Great Recession to the global rise of authoritarianism, how do progressive and left activists in the US navigate knowing and not knowing, certainty and its absence; what sorts of affects are produced by knowing, or not, what is to be done; what is opened, and foreclosed, with the genre of the blueprint as compared to the genre of the brainstorm; and what sorts of activist publics are formed thereby? Interested in how senses of political possibility and impossibility emerge and take hold, the article explores how, in the shadow of pronouncements by all manner of those who know what is to be done – from conservative, moderate and liberal establishmentarians to armchair activists and progressive or leftist scolds – activists inhabit uncertainty about what is to be done and figure out what to do even so.

  • 1 University of California, Santa Cruz, USA

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