Commentary: What affect produces

by Danilyn Rutherford

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By Danilyn RutherfordFull Article:

Rheana Parreñas’s examination of orangutan–human encounters suggests how cultural anthropologists might pioneer a bolder approach to the analysis of social interactions of all sorts. All interactions, however closely acquainted the parties involved, require the interpretation of more or less inscrutable sounds and gestures. Engaging with this strangeness incites intensely felt bodily experiences that people only imperfectly translate into passions like love, fear, shock, and relief. Parreñas points the way both to a fuller understanding of the role of this sort of affect in neoliberalism and to richer alliances among the subfields of anthropology and between anthropology and the humanities and natural and physical sciences. These new alliances promise to provide us with new ways of understanding our entanglements with others who are always both familiar and strange.

adult male orangutan in Malaysia- Photo by Rheana Parrenas
adult male orangutan in Malaysia- Photo by Rheana Parrenas

  • A caretaker gently touches a rehabilitant adult male orangutan who waits to be released at a wildlife center in Sarawak, Malaysia, January 13, 2009. Photo by Rheana Parrenas.