SCMS 2020 Panel: Affective Polarization: Enemies and Allies in National Discourses

deadline for submissions: 
August 18, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
SCMS 2020 / Ghent University
contact email: 

In today’s neo- and illiberal nations affects of hate and indignation become a potent force in creating an axiological us and them. Such exclusionary structures of feeling are instrumental in forming nationalist ideologies and sustaining hegemonic discourses on immigration, homeland security and geopolitical conflict. Because nation states often rely on the construction and sustainment of antagonistic affects to naturalize existing power relationships, emotions should be considered an important manifestation of current illiberal crisis.  Many of today’s intolerances seem to be embedded in a populist sentiment that feeling is a force more immediate and “pure” than reason. However, as Judith Butler contends, “affect is, from the start, communicated from elsewhere,” and is often wielded as a weapon in sustaining nationalist ideologies (2009, 11) [we do not have references?]. Film and other media forms tend to manipulate viewers’ perception on who merits sympathy and who elicits fear in relation to Butler’s presumption on whose lives are deemed ‘grievable.’ The lives that are framed as worthy of protection versus those that become expendable are shaped by affects of fear and hate attached to groups categorized as ‘enemy’—those who threaten a national, and moral allied ‘us.’ Lauren Berlant suggests that these feelings relate to the present “impasse shaped by crisis in which people find themselves developing skills for adjusting to newly proliferating pressures to scramble for modes of living on” (2002, 8). In this view, grievable bodies are entangled in a net of affective attachments that go against the optimism that Western viewers develop in their worldviews.


In this panel, we offer a diverse range of analyses on ways in which the impasse of neo- and illiberal regimes are manufactured in response to the problems of immigration, security, conflict and crisis. Some of the questions that we intend to tackle pertain to the antagonistic structures in these countries and the manner in which they can be dismantled through fostering mediated empathic engagements. Moreover, we are interested in ways both precariousness and grievability can be acknowledged through narrative film and the types of nationalist agendas that serve affective states in media representation. Finally, we would like to offer interpretations on how media and film imagine this impasse in the current political moment of “crisis.”


Please submit an abstract with a suggested bibliography and a short bio by August 18, 2019 to and