Affect theory and the concept of atmosphere

Brown, Steven D.; Kanyeredzi, Ava; McGrath, Laura; Reavey, Paula and Tucker, Ian (2019). Affect theory and the concept of atmosphere. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, 20(1) pp. 5–24.



The concept of atmosphere is a way of emplacing affect and affect theory. Work in contemporary social geography has done much to demonstrate how elemental forces become enveloped in atmospheres. However it tends to under-theorise the role of historically structured socio-cultural forces and the modes of engagement of persons with the atmospheric. In this paper we identify core themes in the literature – the inbetweeness of atmospheres, tuning space, the folding space-times and modes of engagement. We then develop these themes further through an encounter with work in anthropology, architecture and ecological psychology. Reflections on fieldwork in a medium-secure forensic psychiatric hospital are then used to illustrate the application of atmospheric thinking to a particular setting. We conclude with a call for a renewed ‘ontographic imagination’.

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