Affective societies, affected scientists! 5 questions to Nitzan Shoshan

The interview series poses questions concerning the role of affects and emotions in research practice and contemporary society to researchers on short-term visit and associate members of the Collaborative Research Center “Affective Societies”. Today, we introduce Nitzan Shoshan who is assistant professor at the Center for Sociological Studies at the Colegio de México in Mexico City. On January 23rd he held a lecture at FU Berlin entitled “Hitler, for example: affective registers of fascist exemplarity in Germany”.

Which research question affects you at the moment? What is its social significance?

There are several, but perhaps of particular significance for Affective Societies would be what I’ve tentatively come to call the politics of immediacy. How are desires for forms of immediacy – understood less as instantaneity and more as unmediated processes and relationships, as visceral, intuitive, pre-linguistic, tacheles – generated and staged? How do they circulate, become recruited into political projects, are acted out and spoken about? Also, what manifestations of the politics of immediacy might we identify in academic discourses today? I’m particularly interested in examining the relationship between immediacy and the far right today, a contemporary preoccupation in Germany and elsewhere.

Can you think of an emotion whose relevance has recently surprised you?

I’m a bit of a pessimist, so I’m always more surprised at moments shaped by empathy and solidarity than at those defined by hatred or fear. I think we’ve seen a remarkable recent example in the graduate student strike on several UC campuses. I also found inspiring the broad mobilization in Germany in support of the many newly-arrived migrants in 2015-2016 and afterward – expressions of hatred toward the migrants surprised me less. I could go on.

Do you perceive any affective driving force or affective barrier concerning your research work?

I think it would be fair to say that there’s some sort of barrier between me and many of the people I study, though I’ve also made great friendships and met inspiring people everywhere. There surely is some affective dimension to this barrier and I’ve written briefly about it in my book. I also think that one of my dissertation committee members was right when she suggested that my interest in nationalism, racism, and violence cannot but have something to do with my Israeli background.

Which book has lately affected you the most?

Alina Bronski’s 2010 novel Die Schärfsten Gerichte der Tatarischen Küche, which I only read recently, made me laugh a lot.

From which feelings or sentiments would you rather refrain at the moment?

The moment at which I’m writing these responses appears different from anything that most of us have ever experienced, and not for the better. I’d be wary of both millennial fatalism and utopian fervour, both of which have appeared to be on the rise. Among the political activists with whom I’m involved, I think there is a conscious effort to avoid succumbing to a sense of irrelevance, to passive resignation, notwithstanding that both the conditions for staging political struggles and the public interest in them are currently absent.