Affective Text Trajectories. Toward a Linguistic Anthropology of Critique
Bens, Jonas – 2021
In their studies of culture and society, many if not most scholars from the social sciences and humanities aspire to a critical approach. Recently, this practice of academic critique has become an object of study in its own right. Contributing to this “critique of critique,” I propose ideas for a linguistic anthropology of critique. I suggest mobilizing the concept of text trajectory from the toolbox of critical ethnographies of language and deploying it to investigate the trajectories of those critical texts that social and cultural sciences produce. It then becomes clear that critique is not merely a certain genre of text, but is, rather, a specific manner in which texts become embedded in affective dynamics in trajectories of recontextualizations-in-performance. To capture this complex process, I introduce the concept of affective text trajectory. Based on ethnographic fieldwork on the role of language and affect at International Criminal Court proceedings in northern Uganda, this article describes the affective text trajectory of one of the author's blog posts. The author suggests that in order to assess the critical potential of a text, one should investigate how it becomes embedded in affective dynamics throughout its trajectory.