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The Affective Giro: what it is and how it has transformed the social sciences

The Affective Giro: what it is and how it has transformed the social sciences

May 22, 2022

Every certain time, the development of science and philosophy in our societies it has been marked by transformations that imply the promise that we will know something new, or at least that we will know it in a different way.

Thus, we could identify different stages that were inaugurated from the occurrence of a deviation, a rotation, a turn, an alteration, a turn. That is, a change of path and meaning in the construction of knowledge.

This has happened with different nuances and disciplines also different. Specifically, within the social sciences of recent decades there has been a set of works that have been grouped under the name of "Giro Affectivo" (Affective Turn).


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What is the affective turn?

The Affective Giro is a term with which it is called a different jobs within the social sciences , whose theoretical intention is posed mainly in two ways (Lara and Enciso, 2013): the interest in the emotions that inhabit public life, on the one hand, and the effort to produce a knowledge that deepens that emotionalization of public life ( in contrast to the rationalization characteristic of traditional sciences), on the other.

It is said to be a "Giro" because it represents a break with the object of study in which the production of knowledge had traditionally settled within the social sciences. It is also "Affective", because the new objects of knowledge are precisely emotion and affection .


Some of the theories that have been grouped within the Affective Turn have been, for example, the contemporary reformulation of psychoanalytic theory, the theory of the Actor Network (which connects especially with scientific studies on technology), feminist movements and theories , cultural geography, poststructuralism (which connects especially with art), some theories within the neurosciences, among others.

Likewise, some of the antecedents for this change of route that we know as "Giro Affectivo", are the psychosocial theories originated in the second half of the 20th century, as socioconstructionism, discursive social psychology, cultural studies of emotions , interpretive sociology, sociolinguistics, among others (which in turn had taken up several of the most classical theories of sociology, anthropology and phenomenological philosophy).


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Three theoretical-practical consequences of the Emotional Turn

Something that emerged from "Linguistic Giro" is the proposal that emotions can be studied beyond biology and physiology, with which social sciences could develop their own research methods; methods that would account for how experience (body) is connected to public life, and viscerally .

Likewise, and without being exempt from criticism and controversy, this proposal led to the construction of different research methods, where emotions and affections not only gained strength; but the interactions, the discourses, the body or the gender (and its cultural and historical variability), as social and psychic mobilizers; and also as powerful builders of knowledge.

Next, we will follow the analyzes of Lara and Enciso (2013; 2014) to synthesize three of the theoretical and methodological consequences of the Affective Turn .

1. Rethink the body

A basic premise in the Affective Turn is that emotions and affection have a very important role for the transformation and production of public life. For example, within the institutions and their sectors (the media, health, legality, etc.), which have an impact on the way we relate to each other and on the way we experience the world.

At the same time, emotion and affection are corporeal phenomena (they take place in the body, because they "affect", they connect the body with the world, they are experiences that are felt and that occur at a preconscious level). These phenomena can be displaced and also transmitted through discourse.

Thus, the body stops being only an entity or a stable, fixed or determined organism; It is also understood as a process that has a biological mediation, but that is not the only .

In short, affect and emotions become important as a unit of analysis, with which the body goes beyond the limits of biology that had explained it only in organic and / or molecular terms. This allows us to think about how experiences shape society and space, and hence, processes such as identity or belonging.

2. Affection or emotion?

Something that has been discussed especially since the Affective Turn, is the difference and the relationship between "affection" and "emotion", and later "feeling" . The proposals differ according to the author and the tradition or discipline in which it is framed.

To put it very briefly, "affect" would be the force or intensity of the experience, which predisposes to action; and the emotion would be the pattern of corporeal-cerebral responses that are culturally recognized and that delimit the form of social encounters.

For its part, the "feeling" (concept that has developed in a particularly important way in the part of the neurosciences that influenced the affective turn), would refer to the subjective experience of emotion (The latter would be a more objective experience).

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3. Defense of transdisciplinarity

Finally, the Affective Giro has been characterized by defending a transdisciplinary methodological position. It starts from the assumption that a single theoretical current is not enough to explain the complexity of the affects, and how these affects organize socially and culturally our experiences , with which, it is necessary to resort to different orientations.

For example, some of the methods that gain strength from the Emotional Giro have been discursive methodologies, narrative analyzes, empirical approaches; in connection with genetic sciences, quantum physics, neurosciences or information theories.

Bibliographic references

  • Enciso, G. and Lara, A. (2014). Emotions and Social Sciences in the twentieth century: the prequel of the Emotional Giro. Athenea Digital, 14 (1): 263-288.
  • Lara, A. and Enciso, G. (2013). The affective turn. Athenea Digital, 13 (3): 101-119.

Sensation & Perception - Crash Course Psychology #5 (May 2022).


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