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    The affective turn

    In Religious Affects, Schaefer presents us with two images: 1) Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees who do a startling waterfall rain dance, swinging through the spray on hanging vines, lifting up and hurling rocks and branches, and rhythmically stamping their feet in the water as if in primate heaven. 2) Jesus Camp children, in a 2006 documentary, with white American evangelical children worshiping in religious ecstasy. Is religion of ape or of man? Schaefer uses developments in affect theory to claim both, while echoing Derrida’s “The Animal That Therefore I Am” (2008). He takes the beyond-mere-survival approach to evolution, which he terms postfoundational Darwinism, in line with the approach of Tielhard de Chardin. Schaefer traces the philosophical linguistic turn exemplified by Deleuze, Foucault and Derrida, who emphasize the embodied, empowered, enactive and affective domains of lived experience. Everything is political--products of power--even religion. And power is embodied through affect(s). There is a dual theory of “affect(s),” where affects means Schaefer’s concept of phenomenological theory where there are multiple (n>2) affects which play out in life, versus affect (n-1) ascribed to Deleuze as a singular reduction of affect to a metaphysically restricted “becoming” beneath emotions (a Derridian interpretation of Deleuze). Schaefer insists that bodies are not pure becoming, but intransigent and consistent, though metastable and semistable. Thus Schaefer tracks the phenomenological affective turn which stands opposed to the linguistic fallacy which has resulted from the Enlightenment fantasy of rationalistic personal autonomy. He also presents the shift to a materialist phenomenology which embodies histories in deep time, and exemplifies the heterogenous multiplicity of animal bodies. He examines religion as therefore an outcome of a body’s affective response to power in the world. Religion is embodied in the animalistic—a dance in response to certain affective rhythms in the world which are also transferred through cultural and political means, and with global implications. What are we to make of Schaefer’s genealogy of religion? What he does not say is impressive. Left out are religious or political propositions of deontological truth claims. He does however imply that given adequate awareness of our condition, perhaps we can circumvent historical abuses of power through cultural means such as religion, and replace examples of political or religious tribalism such as Islamophobia (and now Americanophobia) with measured responses of wonder and awe at the pluralism in the world, whether dancing is by waterfalls themselves, by chimpanzees, by children or by a divine collective united in solidarity.
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