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Eco-activism and Fear: Some Feminist Insights about Affect and Agency in Catastrophic Times

Abstract : As we face multiple crises – particularly the climate crisis – the question arises as to how to conduct politics in the shadow of disaster without sliding into authoritarianism. Indeed, the opposition between fear and freedom is a common assumption among political theorists, and so is the close relationship between fear and authoritarianism. This essay seeks to understand how negative emotional experiences such as fear can be collectively addressed and used as a resource by social movements. In the first part, I argue that malestream theoretical frameworks treat fear as pathology, failing to understand and conceptualize the subtle interplay between so-called “negative affects”, and the political thought and action that could take shape (and sometimes already exists) in ecological politics nowadays. The second part draws on feminist affect studies and feminist practices of consciousness raising to sketch alternative stories of what fearful and angry bodies can do. Throughout the article, I explore how anxiety, fear and despair, far from leading to powerlessness and manipulation, can become indicators of our interconnectedness, recreating and reminding us of ties and forms of belonging that have been destroyed or forgotten. Expressed, lived, and transformed in empowering affective arrangements, they become a resource for a new kind of collective agency, and can generate the critical thinking necessary fight against disaster capitalism.
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Submitted on : Thursday, December 23, 2021 - 8:32:35 AM
Last modification on : Friday, April 1, 2022 - 3:46:18 AM


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Lena Silberzahn. Eco-activism and Fear: Some Feminist Insights about Affect and Agency in Catastrophic Times. Interfere : Journal for Critical Thought and Radical Politics, Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics (CAPPE), University of Brighton, 2021, Born in Flames, 2, pp.51-77. ⟨hal-03501165⟩



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