Pride Politics: A Socio-Affective Analysis

  • Author / Creator
    Nixon, Randi
  • This dissertation explores the affective politics of pride in the context of neoliberalism and the multitude of way that proud feelings map onto issues of social justice. Since pride is so varied in both its individual and political manifestations, I draw on numerous instances of collective pride to attend to the relational, structural and historical contours of proud feelings. Given the methodological challenges posed by affect, I use a mixed-method approach that includes interviews, participant observation, and discourse analysis, while being keenly attuned to the tension between bodily materiality and discursivity. Each chapter attends to an “event” of pride, exploring its emergence during particular encounters with collective difference. The project fills a gap in affect theory by attending to the way that proud feelings play a vital role in both igniting the political intensity necessary to bring about change (through Pride politics), and blocking or extinguishing possibilities of respectful dialogue and solidarity across gendered, sexual, and racial difference. Across the chapters, pride is used as a conduit through which the complexity of affective politics can be examined. The proud events around and through which each chapter is structured expose paths of affect and its politics. Taken together, the chapters provide an initial blueprint for navigating contemporary affective politics. Through an examination of the discursive rendering of pride, I find that, across several literatures, two key characteristics of pride are its deep relationality between individuals and collectives, and the way it circulates, is managed, and emerges in relation to social hierarches and the value attached to political categories (race, class, gender, ability). Because of the dynamic variability of pride as it moves across and through individuals, collectives, political categories and signs, I develop four analytical modes—normative pride, pride from below, wounded pride, and neoliberal pride—through which pride circulates and can be expressed. The modes are explored throughout the chapters, specifically the relationship between pride from below and neoliberal pride in the context of Gay Pride and Black Pride politics. I argue that, at the level of the individual, pride from below is a mechanism by which pain in the body that results from the tension between lived experience and dominant discursive realities can be expelled from the body. However, in that individual experience can be isolating and often disconnected from structural realities, I argue that activist and political writing are crucial (events) to the process of suturing the individual to the collective through the use of the language of pride as a galvanizing political force. Critical to my argument is the acknowledgment that pride is one way to name or articulate the wildness of individual and collective affect. The process of translating affect into language, most often emotions such as pride, is tenuous, ambivalent, and always-already incomplete. I explore the ambivalence of collective feeling through an examination of Gay Pride events, particularly the tension between pride from below and neoliberal pride, and suggest that a) collective pride is simultaneously enhancing and diminishing to bodies, and that b) the inherent wildness of affect forecloses possibilities of completely governing collective feeling, such as pride. Given the dynamism and unpredictability of affect, I suggest that attention to strategy in the realm of affective politics is of utmost importance. I read the event of Beyoncé’s Superbowl 2016 performance through the lens of affective political strategy, arguing that such a reading demonstrates the importance of timing and dosage to maximize affective and political impact. Key to Beyoncé’s success, I argue, is her movement through and simultaneous expressions of pride from below and neoliberal pride. Lastly, by staging an encounter between pride and laughter in a particular space—a safe house for inner-city street level sex workers—I show how affective-political encounters are simultaneously individual, collective, and structural. I offer a vision of what pride and its politics can look like when detached from a stable identity category and attached instead to a politics sensitive to the immanence of encounters. This ethico-political sensitivity is the basis upon which a model of assessing claims at the level of affective transmission can be offered, as I do in the conclusion.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2017-11:Fall 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Sociology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Dr. Chloë Taylor (Department of Women's and Gender Studies)
    • Dr. Sara Dorow (Department of Sociology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Dr. John Protevi (Department of French Studies)
    • Dr. Sara Dorow (Department of Sociology)
    • Dr. Chloë Taylor (Department of Women's and Gender Studies)
    • Dr. Judy Davidson (Department of Physical Education and Recreation)
    • Dr. Robyn Lee (Department of Sociology)