On being stuck: the pandemic crisis as affective stasis
Bernhardt, Fabian; Slaby, Jan – 2022
The Covid-19 pandemic put forth a new kind of affective exhaustion. Being forced to stay at home, diminish social interactions and reduce the scale of their everyday mobility, many people experienced boredom, sluggishness, and existential immobility. While state-imposed pandemic policies changed rapidly, everyday life remained strangely unmoving. A sense of being stuck unfurled-as if not only social life, but time itself had come to a halt. At the same time, there was a latent sense of tension and increased aggressiveness which became manifest not only in protests and riots, but also in the texture of everyday life. In this contribution, we argue that both of these states-the feeling of being stuck, and the feeling that this putative tranquility is nothing but the calm before a storm-can be conceptualized as affective stasis. Through a rearticulation of the ancient concept of stasis, we show that these two at first glance incongruous affective conditions are intricately entangled. In Ancient Greek, the term stasis meant "stand, standing, stance". Being used in a wide variety of contexts-politics, navigation, sports, rhetoric, medicine, and others-stasis took on different meanings which can be semantically organized around two opposite poles: one is the total absence of motion, and the other is an event of radical and often violent social and political change. Drawing on affect theory, phenomenology, and ancient Greek semantics, we propose affective stasis as a novel conceptual framework for political phenomenology.