Affective Publics. Understanding the Dynamic Formation of Public Articulations Beyond the Public Sphere
Lünenborg, Margreth – 2019
While an understanding of “the public sphere” in the tradition of the European Enlightenment was strongly linked to a Habermasian concept of rationality and deliberation, the chapter argues for an inclusion of affect and emotion in an appropriate understanding of today’s conflictual, dynamic, and often antagonistic constellations of publics as affective publics. The Chapter discusses the limits of an exclusively rational concept of public discourse and, in particular, provides concepts of digital, networked forms of mediated communication that no longer privilege institutions such as journalism to provide issues of relevance for society, but enables a complex variety of actors (no longer to be distinguished between speakers and audience) to articulate their interests. These performative publics emerge in a specific temporal dynamic, they can attract attention and lose relevance again, even in short periods of time. This contingency and unpredictability of emerging publics challenges traditional concepts of public discourse as well as established hierarchies. Antagonist power resources characterize their affective dynamics: while, on one hand, emancipatory articulations pave their way through forms of hashtag activism (e.g., #MeToo, #aufschrei, #blacklivesmatter), these very means are used in populist right-wing movements (e.g., #120db) to silence these actors on the other hand.