On Collective Feelings, or the Impressions Left by Others

Ahmed, Sara. 2004. On Collective Feelings, or the Impressions Left by Others. Theory, Culture and Society, 21(2), pp. 25-42. ISSN 0263-2764 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article examines ‘collective feelings’ by considering how ‘others’ create impressions on the surfaces of bodies. Rather than considering ‘collective feeling’ as ‘fellow feeling’ or in terms of feeling ‘for’ the collective, the article suggests that how we respond to others in intercorporeal encounters creates the impression of a collective body. In other words, how we feel about others is what aligns us with a collective, which paradoxically ‘takes shape’ only as an effect of such alignments. The article considers different examples of racism in which a particular other is held in place by being aligned with other others. The ‘moment of contact’ is shaped by past histories of contact, which allows the proximity of a racial other to be perceived as threatening, at the same time as it re-shapes the bodies in the contact zone of the encounter. Feelings rehearse associations that are already in place, in the way in which they ‘read’ the proximity of others, at the same time as they establish the ‘truth’ of the reading. The article extends its analysis by showing that bodily proximity is not required to create the impressions of others, and offers an analysis of ‘collective feelings’ within virtual communities of global nomads. Proximity does not require physical co-presence: the collective can ‘surface’ through giving up on local attachments (where the screen becomes a substitute for the skin). The article concludes that collective feelings are not feelings that the collective ‘has’, as if the collective was a subject. Rather the collective is an effect of the impressions left by others on the surfaces of skins.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies



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Date Deposited:

06 Oct 2015 10:37

Last Modified:

22 Apr 2016 16:39

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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