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Stream "Affective Witnessing" at the Capacious Conference 2018, Lancaster, USA

Capacious Conference Booklet

Capacious Conference Booklet

Rabih Mroué: The Pixelated Revolution, 2012, Part 1 of the Series The Fall of a Hair, 2012, detail of video still recorded by unknown Syrian protester in 2010 (video, colour, sound, 21:58 min) ©Rabih Mroué

Rabih Mroué: The Pixelated Revolution, 2012, Part 1 of the Series The Fall of a Hair, 2012, detail of video still recorded by unknown Syrian protester in 2010 (video, colour, sound, 21:58 min) ©Rabih Mroué

Stream S4 of

August 08-11, 2018
Millersville University’s Ware Center, Lancaster PA


Stream Organizers: Dr Michael Richardson (School of the Arts & Media, UNSW) and

Dr Kerstin Schankweiler (SFB Affective Societies, Freie Universität Berlin)


This stream responds to the vitality and inescapable affectivity of witnessing today. We live in “an era of becoming a witness” (Givoni 2011), one in which the modes, forms, capacities and potentials of bearing witness are rapidly changing. New devices, cameras and sensors make possible the transmission and circulation of testimony, setting veracities of experience on a collision course with post-truth culture. Police body cameras, smartphones, live streaming platforms, social media’s democratisation of voices and lethal drone strike footage uploaded to YouTube: these and countless other new sites and techniques of witnessing feed into the resurgent activism of Black Lives Matter, the street protests of Morocco and the #MeToo movement. Yet older forms of witnessing also remain vibrant and find new avenues for expression and circulation. Now more than ever, corporeal and technological practices, tools and techniques of witnessing are increasingly co-composed: entangling, converging and diverging in unexpected ways to make space – potentially – for change.

Witnessing is always affective: it insists on the intensive relationality of the witness and the witnessed. To bear witness means not only giving an account of experience, event or happening, but making it accessible to others: of affecting and being affected. Witnessing is always on the brink of becoming political, of shifting from the moment of the event to its proliferation through the body politic (Massumi 2015). To bear witness is to be brought within the intersection of the political and the ethical, yet it is also to be affectively entangled in webs of relations, materialities and matterings (Gregg & Seigworth 2010). The capacity of media to generate, circulate and modulate affect (Gibbs 2001, Dean 2010, Papacharissi 2014) means that the economies of meaning within which witnessing takes place are also increasingly affective, transitory and contested. All this has consequences for what witnessing does, for the production of veracity and the formation of witnessing communities.

Affective witnessing makes space for change, for bodies and politics and possibilities that are otherwise obscured, for voices and stories and cultures that might be silenced or oppressed or simply unheard. Bearing witness means becoming responsible to an event (Peters 2001). Witnessing can be mediated and immediate, intimate and distant, commonplace and extraordinary, but it also entails an intensity that can be contagious, or change in time, or take on a life of its own. Unfolding on social media, witnessing is an escapably collective and relational practice of space-making: forming communities, provoking further testimonies, producing co-witnesses.


Panel 1: Theory

Kerstin Schankweiler (Affective Societies, Freie Universität Berlin): On Affective Media Witnessing and Anonymity

Michael Richardson (University of New South Wales): Refiguring the Witness: Affects, Technologies, Mediations

Jonas Bens (Affective Societies, Freie Universität Berlin): The Non-Human Witness: Its Objectivity and Affectivity in the Courtroom

Panel 2: Practices

Nicole E. Weber (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey): “Beyond Recognition:” Moving Bodies and Subjects through Female Fitness Transformations Online

Stacia Cedillo (University of Texas): Patreonic Instagramming: Exploring the Deterritorializing and Democratizing Affective Politics in Animal Rights Advocacy on Social Media

Nathan Jumper (University of North Carolina): Affective Dynamics and Superposed Space in Webcam Pornography

Panel 3: Politics

Tesla Cariani (Emory University): Glimpsing Shadows: Affective Witnessing in Josuè Azor’s Noctambules

Alexia Arani (University of California, San Diego): Mediated Vulnerability, Mediated Care: Witnessing Queer and Trans Intimate Publics Online

Eric S. Jenkins (University of Cincinnati): Exposed: Surveillance, Police Shooting Videos, and Affect Privilege

Denise Bergold-Caldwell (Philipps-Universität Marburg): The Affect of Freedom, or Feeling Free