Affective societies, affected scientists! 5 questions to Karen Silva Torres

The interview series poses questions concerning the role of affects and emotions in research practice and contemporary society to researchers from different fields. Today we introduce Karen Silva Torres. She is a doctoral researcher at the Institute of Anthropology and the Graduate School of Global and Area Studies at Leipzig University. Her main research interests are visual and media anthropology, media and politics, journalism and affects, and digital ethnography.

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

The research question that affects me connects old personal concerns with the final stage of my thesis. I am exploring the affective side of journalistic practices, and I wish to understand the role of emotions, feelings, and moods in journalists’ everyday work. Not only how these emotions are used as rhetorical tools but how they affect their professional lives. As an anthropologist formerly trained as a journalist, I cannot help but wonder how much I am affecting the research question in return.

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

Yes, I am surprised at how much shame circulates on social media and how journalists react to it. Online shaming can turn an event into a story, depending on the political implications. Gender and class influence who is subjected to online shaming and the spread of it. Additionally, journalists sometimes contribute to this phenomenon by, for instance, sharing, giving likes, or retweeting images or information that feed into these trends online.

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

The affective closeness to the journalists I worked with is at the same time a driving force and a barrier. I want to tell their stories honouring the complexity of their lives and decisions; this drives my writing. Still, it could be paralyzing: how much do I tell, without exposing them or their projects. How much distance do I need to write? These questions bring about the anxieties that most ethnographers experience.

4. Which book has lately affected you the most?

Erotism. Death and Sensuality (1986) by Georges Bataille is one of the books that have affected me the most. I was captivated by his arguments about the unavoidable connection between the self and the other. My favorite quote: “(…) on each side there is an inner compulsion to get out of the limits of individual discontinuity.”

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

Isolation. I am sure most of us share this feeling because of the COVID-19 context. This is connected to the risk of feeling that nothing moves, that time is somehow frozen because we are waiting for the crisis to pass but we do not know how and when it will do. I think we need to avoid this collectively. Together, we will endure!