Happy Objects, Sara Ahmed

  • even though happiness is imagined as a feeling state, or a form of consciousness that evaluates a life situation achieved over time, (Veenhoven), happiness also turns us toward objects.
  • happiness as a happening: involving affect, intentionality, evaluation or judgement
  • happiness – a promise to direct us toward certain objects – social goods
  • affect = what sticks; sustains, preserves the connection between ideas, values, and objects
  • Middle English “hap” = chance -> original meaning preserves the potential of this “hap” to be good or bad; the “hap” of happiness gets translated into something good.
  • happiness – being lucky, favored by fortune (archaic meaning)
  • nowadays: effect of what you do, reward of hard work, rather than happiness being “simply” what happens to you

  • John Locke: good is “what is apt to cause or increase pleasure, or diminish pain in us” -> happiness is idiosyncratic: we are made happy by different things, we find different things delightful
  • happiness puts us into intimate contact with things
  • to be affected in a good way can survive the coming and the going of objects
  • bodily transformation may transform what it is seen as delightful
  • to be affected by something = to evaluate that thing
  • to give value to things = to shape what is near us
  • happiness -> shaping our near sphere; objects that
  • objects that give us pleasure – residence within our bodily horizon -> our likes establish what we are like -> bodily horizon = horizon of likes
  • happiness can be described as intentional in the phenomenological sense (directed towards objects), as well as being affective (contact with objects)
  • To say we love what tastes delightful is not to say that delight causes our love, but that the experience of delight involves a loving orientation toward the object, just as the experience of love registers what is delightful.
  • pleasure creates an object, even when the object of pleasure appears before us
  • to experience an object as being affective or sensational is to be directed not only toward an object, but to “whatever” is around that object, which includes what is behind the object, the conditions of its arrival.
  • when we become conscious of feeling happy, happiness can often recede of become anxious.
  • happiness as a feeling appears very precarious, easily displaced not only by other feelings, but even by happiness itself, by the how of its arrival.
  • happiness – “end oriented”; often described as “what” we aim for, as an endpoint, or even an end in itself
  • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics: happiness = the Chief Good, what we “choose always for its own sake” -> the perfect end, the end of all ends (Anthony Kenny) -> all other things become means of happiness
  • Aristotle: “a man is not a good man at all who feels no pleasure in noble actions; just as no one would call that man just who does not feel pleasure in acting justly” – the role that habit plays in arguments about happiness
  • the circulation of objects – the circulation of goods
  • objects are “sticky” because they are already attributed as being good or bad, as being the cause of happiness or unhappiness
  • affects can be contagious
  • to receive is to act; to receive an impression is to make an impression
  • the moods we arrive with do affect what happens
  • the gap between the affective value of an object and how we experience an object can involve a range of affects, which are directed by the modes of explanation we offer to fill this gap
  • the feminist is an affect alien: she might even kill joy because she refuses to share an orientation toward certain things as being good because she does not find the objects that promise happiness to be quite so promising
  • the angry black woman  – a kill-joy; she may even kill feminist joy, for example, by pointing out forms of racism within feminist politics
  • some bodies become blockage points – points where smooth communication stops
  • to create awkwardness is to be read as being awkward
  • the proximity between an affect and object is preserved through habit
  • once an object is a feeling-cause, it can cause feeling, so that when we feel the feeling we expect to feel we are affirmed
  • rather than saying what is good is apt to cause pleasure, we could say that what is apt to cause pleasure is already judged to be good
  • certain objects are attributed as the cause of happiness , which means they already circulate as social goods before we “happen” upon them, which is why we might happen upon them in the first place -> we anticipate that happiness will follow proximity to this or that object
  • happiness provides the emotional setting for disappointment – through expectations
  • happiness is not only promised by certain objects, it is also what we promise to give to others as an expression of love
  • the unhappy queer, who is judged to be unhappy
  • although we can live without the promise of happiness, and can do so “happily”, we live with the consequences of being a cause of unhappiness for others
  • Bend it like Beckham film
  • bad feeling are seen as oriented toward the past, as a kind of stubbornness that “stops” the subject from embracing the future

 

Gregg, M, & Seigworth, GJ (eds) 2009, The Affect Theory Reader, Duke University Press Books, Durham, US. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [13 November 2016].

http://site.ebrary.com/lib/coventry/reader.action?docID=10452969&ppg=40

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