Teach Affecting Attention, Material Thought

ANT210 Affecting Attention, Material Thought

Instructor: Joe Dumit 

Time: Fall 2011


The encounter between two disciplines doesn’t take place when one reflects on the other, but when one discipline realizes that it has to resolve, for itself, a problem similar to one confronted by the other.

– Gilles Deleuze

In this course we will think with two books by Gilles Deleuze:Cinema 1: The Movement Image, and Cinema 2: The Time Image. We will be reading them in the mode of encounter: how can they inspire us in thinking, writing, and fieldwork with affect, bodies, attention, and history. We will figure out ways to mutate our common thoughts and modes of analysis. We will read the books sequentially, there will be no additional reading required. Students are expected to write a short prospectus for each class and these will be shared at the beginning. You are encouraged to bring your own questions, dilemmas and challenges to the class.


Oct 5:    C1–ch 1,2,3
Oct 12:  C1–ch 4,5,6,7 (meet in Young 224)
Oct 19:  C1–ch 8,9,10
Oct 26:  C1–ch 11,12; C2–ch 1
Nov 2:   no class
Nov 9:   C2–ch 2,3,4
Nov 16: no class
Nov 23: no class
Nov 30: C2-ch 5,6,7
Dec 7:   C2-ch 8,9,10
Dec 14: recap

This seminar and Tim Choy’s ANT210 seminar have been developed jointly to build a larger conversation about bodies, environments, sensations, affects, techniques, materiality, ontology, and process-relational cosmopolitics. This is done in anticipation of next year’s Sawyer Seminar on Indigenous Cosmopolitics, organized by Marisol de la Cadena. Enrollment in both seminars will be fruitful —maybe even fun!— but is not required.



Each week I assign 3-4 chapters. Students are directed to encounter the writing with their own ongoing projects, finding a resonance, and bring a page to class (with enough copies to share around). Then we read the pages for 20 minutes and set an agenda. They also post their pages and respond to another’s on the smartsite forums during the next week.

i’ve been experimenting with ways to reduce judgement in their writing (of themselves or others). Here is part of a note i sent to the class a couple of days ago:

Critical writing should always be a transformative experience. As Michel Foucault put it many years ago: “what would be the value of the passion for knowledge if it resulted only in a certain amount of knowledgeableness and not, in one way or another and to the extent possible, in the knower’s straying afield of himself?” (Foucault 1986, 8; cited in Shaviro, Without Criteria).

In this ongoing experiment of a course, I am trying to find forms of writing practice for you that create new concepts and give them the rigor we associate with theory. Thinking with Foucault in the above quote, these are techniques of the self or spiritual exercises as much as they are research and writing. Given the too-often sense of anxiety, stuckness, difficulty and so on associated to “theorizing” and writing [cf. my sitting study], we are here figuring our ways into theorizing that is fun, interesting, weird — creative.  With Deleuze: “Nothing is more fun than classifications!”  And classifications is one of the practices that I encourage you to experiment with.

One suggestion is to let go your form even more – first by understanding that these little inventions you hand out each week are not writing (they probably will not slot easily into your research writing, so don’t try to make them), second by making them even smaller. Starting with a sentence or two, in which you pose a question at the intersection of your interests/content/projects and some part of the concepts in the chapters. (in other words, Go too far). Then breathe, smile, and experiment with it:

1. Ask: if it is not that concept (say why it might not be), then what might it be instead? What other concepts does it launch – especially look to something you know. And for each of those concepts, what varieties might there be – here perhaps looking to the vocabulary used by someone in your field – even someone you have a troubled relationship to – now you can make it up differently. Modeling the tactics of a passage by Deleuze perhaps, but with your own words/concepts.

2. Then breathe, smile, stretch, drink something (lots of water in any case), and ask: if it is that concept, then what variation would it introduce into Deleuze’s concepts in a particular passage – surely isn’t exactly his concept… variations can be major or minor.

Maybe these concepts will help in the future, maybe not, but hopefully this can be a fun, invigorating, even procrastinating activity, like a good workout or dance when you have a report coming due – refreshing 🙂


note also that you should apply one of these questions to your responses to people’s postings. So each one would take something the person said as
a creative starting point: one would be to notice what they do with words that put Deleuze’s concepts into variation, how they find more in the passage than he did.

A second approach would be to play with a new variation to their concepts, in raising these alternate framings of your response, i’m guided by a sense that Deleuze is constantly drawing out concepts as he finds them in films and philosophies, attending to how each one opens up its own insights, but “It would be obtuse to say that one of these theory-practices was better than another, or represents progress” (55). In his preface he suggests:

“It is not a manner of saying that the modern cinema of the time-image is ‘more valuable’ than the classical cinema of the movement- image. We are talking only of masterpieces to which no hierarchy of value applies. The cinema is always as perfect as it can be, taking into account the images and signs which it invents and which it has at its disposal at a given moment. This is why this study must interweave concrete analyses of images and signs with the ‘monographs’ of the great directors who have created or renewed them.” (x)

What happens when we read texts and each other as masterpieces? And make our own in response?