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Affinities: Potent Connections in Personal Life

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Affinities: Potent Connections in Personal Life

Jennifer Mason

ISBN: 978-1-509-52430-3 January 2018 Polity 256 Pages

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How is it possible to feel an affinity with a place? What is happening when someone feels almost literally transported to another time by a smell or a texture or a song? Why do striking family resemblances sometimes feel uncanny? In each of these cases a potent connection is being made, involving forces, flows, energies and atmospherics that conventional sociological approaches can find hard to grasp, but that are important nonetheless. 

In this innovative book Jennifer Mason argues that these are affinities – potent charges and charismatically lively connections in personal life, that rise up and matter in some way and that enchant or toxify the everyday. She suggests that exploring affinities opens up new possibilities for conceptualizing the experience of living in the world through what she calls the 'socio-atmospherics of everyday life'. This book invites the reader to embrace possibilities and themes that may seem outside the usual range, and to engage in a more open, attentive, inventive and poetic sociological sensibility.

Acknowledgements xi

Introduction: Affinities as an Invitation to Think Differently 1

Part One: Sensations of Living

Why Sensations? 7

Facets of Sensation 11

1. Ashes, ghosts and the ‘sense of presence’ 11

2. ‘Grandma’s Hands’ by Bill Withers (version by Gil ScottHeron) 17

3. The sensations of others: children’s perspectives 18

Looks 21

Voices, volume and imitation 22

Size, height, weight, growing 24

Play fighting and real fighting 26

Bodily proximity with others 27

Relational traces and bodily inscriptions 27

4. The sensory-kinaesthetic intimacies of violence 29

5. Becky Tipper’s creaturely ‘moments of being’ 31

6. Meat, ‘food-animals’ and Rhoda Wilkie’s ‘sentient commodities’ 33

Layering the Argument: Sensations of Affinity 39

Life is full of sensory-kinaesthetics 40

Sensations are multiple and atmospheric, emanating in encounters 42

Sensations as sensations: not representations, adjuncts or qualities 46

A sensory-kinaesthetic attunement reveals characters 50

Affinities are charged with the energies of fascination, wondering and discordance 54

Part Two: Ineffable Kinship

Why Ineffable Kinship? 59

Facets of Ineffable Kinship 63

1. Family resemblances in literature and art 63

2. Resemblance interactions 68

A familiar conversation topic and form 70

Resemblances as striking, fleeting and capricious 71

Negotiating and ‘settling’ resemblances 72

An uneasy combination of the potent and the trivial 74

3. Resemblance stories 74

4. The still-beating heart 89

5. Nordqvist and Smart’s donors as ‘enigmatic presences’ 93

6. Konrad’s ‘nameless relations’ and ‘transilience’ 97

7. Super-donors and dubious progeniture 101

8. ‘The Seed’ by The Roots, featuring Cody Chesnutt 104

Layering the Argument: Affinities of Ineffable Kinship 106

Metaphors of genetics and heritability 106

Poetics and the ‘frisson’ of ineffability 111

Wondering about what is circulating and relating 114

Part Three: Ecologies and Socio-Atmospherics

Why Ecologies and Socio-Atmospherics? 123

Facets of Ecologies and Socio-Atmospherics 126

1. Animate places and things in literature 126

Nan Shepherd’s ‘living mountain’ 126

Jon McGregor’s city that ‘sings’ 127

Haruki Murakami’s ‘pulsing’ city 129

Barbara Kingsolver’s Africa as an ‘attendance in my soul’ 130

2. Atmospheric memories of animate places and things 131

The atmospherics of a teenager’s city 131

Anat Hecht’s ‘tangible memories’ of home 133

Karin Widerberg’s atmospheric memories of ‘the homes of others’ 135

3. Animate technologies, vehicles and journeys 137

Phone feelings 137

The threaded worlds of train travel 140

Mimi Sheller’s ‘automotive emotions’ and ‘feeling the car’ 143

Lynne Pearce’s ‘autopia’ of driving and thinking 146

4. Weathery weather in social science and literature 148

5. Writing weather stories 152

6. Socio-atmospherics and the time of the floods 154

Shock: the power and magnitude of water 155

Bearing witness and being in touch 156

An atmosphere of ‘getting on with it’ 158

Legacies of the floods 159

7. Weather poetics 164

Layering the Argument: Ecologies and SocioAtmospherics 168

Ecologies as convivialities, assemblages, happenings and animated space 169

The feel of places, things, journeys and technologies 175

Enigmatic ecologies and the socio-atmospherics of living 178

From what is connected to the dynamics of connection 180

Ecological poetics 184

Conclusion: Affinities in Time 186

Three layers of the argument 187

Time: a final layering 188

Time and sensations 190

Time and ineffable kinship 193

Time, ecologies and socio-atmospherics 196

Accepting the invitation of affinities 200

Notes 203

References 204

Index 000

"Affinities is a work of profound originality showing us what is to be gained from finding ways to become attuned to the effervescent, atmospheric aspects of social life. Beyond sociological clichés and comfortable academic conventions, this beautiful book is proof that sociology can be magical if we have the courage to believe in that possibility."
Les Back, Goldsmiths, University of London

"Jennifer Mason has created a beguiling example of the contemporary sociological imagination at work. She shifts boundaries to incorporate fresh fields of vision, giving new depth to sociological enquiry. Unquestionably a delightful work of perceptive scholarship."
Carol Smart, Professor Emerita, University of Manchester

"This book is a guide for retraining social science's rationalistic or categorical version of reality into a more worldly realism of potencies, energies and sentience. It conjures a world in which affinities matter as a way of conceptualizing how to live."
Kathleen Stewart, The University of Texas at Austin