The Affect Project

I’m thankful to the Affect Project at the University of Manitoba (where I hold a research fellowship) for their support in my research. Here is a description of the broader Affect Project from their website (


From affect as a cognitive phenomenon, through emotion as a motive for creativity, to empathy as a spur for community action and policy development, to the  that we belong in a given physical, social or cultural environment, affect is a significant but complex feature of our lived experience. Yet its nature and influences have most often been explored within institutional and disciplinary confines that curtail opportunities for rich intellectual exchange, and that limit the impact of results across those borders. Research on affect has progressed more rapidly in recent years, owing to a greater appreciation of its central role in guiding human attitudes, decision‐making, and actions and developments in technology that have permitted more precise, moment‐to‐moment, measures of affective response. Even so, research initiatives on the topic of affect remain fragmented within established disciplinary categories. A core presumption of our group is that affect is much too complex to understand in a narrow, piecemeal fashion, with experts from relevant disciplines pursuing their investigations independently. The Affect Project: Memory, Aesthetics, and Ethics, is envisioned as a multidisciplinary, critical, and timely response to the ubiquity of the affective in contemporary life and culture, as well as the “affective turn” taken by a range of scholarly disciplines. Our project seeks to develop connections among those working in different scholarly fields and those working in the community who share an interest in affect, and who wish to explore the role and power of emotional expression both in private and public life. Our inquiries will highlight what William James calls “the feelings of [emotion’s] bodily symptoms”—that is, affect as the physical, biological, or neurobiological expression of emotion. We also recognize that there is inevitably some overlap between affect and emotion in the general understanding of human feeling and expression, and that both affect and emotion are central to our investigations of memory, aesthetics, and ethics.


The goal of The Affect Project is to engage academics, community experts, artists and students in discussions and explorations of the social, ethical, political and cultural impact of affect, which we define as the “expression of emotion in the public realm.” In particular, we wish to involve academic and community partners in publicly‐situated conversations, exhibits, and presentations on the power of affect in the realms of politics, policy, justice, and art. Our contention is that affect—and the emotions associated with it—is a powerful but under‐studied ingredient of public life, and that common assumptions about the psychology of emotions underestimate the role of affect in debates about the meaning and value of art, ethics, and justice in connection to a range of topics and issues of vital interest to our communities. Our intention is to build knowledge and understanding from multidisciplinary perspectives, including community‐based research, and to engage in discussion and debate with academic and non‐academic audiences to create and mobilize new knowledge and understanding of affect and its impact on intellectual, cultural, social and political pursuits. Specific goals:

  1. Explore the influence of affect as a crucial ingredient of public and academic issues involving memory, aesthetics, and ethics.
  2. Establish links among various disciplines and among their working concepts about affect, the problems these disciplines define, and the approaches they use in their research and analysis.
  3. Develop the mechanisms for multidisciplinary research on affect: integrate methodical approaches, integrate academic and community‐based inquiry in order to generate new knowledge about the role of affect in culture and in experience.
  4. Compile a database that provides cross‐sector perspectives on affect. The database will include links to scholarly and curated websites and a bibliography of current research.
  5. Communicate the outcomes of multidisciplinary discussions and our proposed research activities to the broader community with the aim of providing community members with enhanced understanding of the role of affect on their own and others’ thoughts and actions.

The Affect Project is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Development Grant.

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