White Supremacy's Affective Policing: Beyond the “Sensory Alarm System”
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Through a collection of vignettes, Kathleen Stewart’s ​Ordinary Affects​ argues for the value of studying the affective dimensions of everyday life. These scenes are both explanatory and reveal world-building potentials visible in ordinary affective registers. In one of these scenes, “The Utopian Hotel,” Stewart describes white policing of space as a “sensory alarm system.”

I am looking to put together a panel of people whose work contributes in some way to historicizing the “sensory alarm system,” or, said another way, whose work looks at affective policing as a tool of white supremacy.

I was inspired to put this panel together because of my interest in what Stewart's work teaches us about making meaning out of "seemingly inconsequential" interactions and how this can be used to critique white supremacy and capitalism, but also because of an archival artifact that I am making central to one of my dissertation chapters:

My paper looks at a small piece of Civil War correspondence that describes a confederate soldier finding, upon the inspection of an allegedly abandoned plantation, a group of enslaved women playing music and dancing. Though recounted with disgust, this occupation of an evacuated plantation is a vivid and beautiful display of a form of resistance and a mode of freedom that rejects not only white supremacy's priorities, but its demand for deference, numbness, and (conditional) restraint. I read this as a glimpse by the soldier, and now the researcher, of a radical potentiality - a picture of what emancipation could have meant and looked like and, indeed, did look like in this precarious moment.

Though I welcome other 19th century projects, I also invite work on other time periods. I encourage anyone whose work investigates this type of surveillance (especially but not exclusively in ways that emphasize rejections, resistance, and revolutions) to reach out to me or go ahead and send an abstract by January 28th. My email address is rebekahjoa@ku.edu.

Current contributors: 
Rebekah Aycock
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