The making of the affective turn: U.S. imperialism and the privatization of dissent in the 1980s
Stuelke, Patricia R.
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This dissertation traces the relationship between the cultural formations of 1980s U.S. imperialism and the ascendance of neoliberal capitalism. Analyzing government documents, popular and literary fiction, movement memoirs and photography, and popular music, the dissertation argues that neoliberal discourses, logics, and affects were articulated by state and university representations of U.S. imperialism, as well as by the feminist and solidarity movement cultures that attempted to oppose the United States' overt and covert interventions in the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The dissertation demonstrates how the university, the military, and the state reconfigured the materialist, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist imperatives of 1960s and 1970s movement cultural formations into fantasies of neoliberal recognition and tools for the production of neoliberal entrepreneurial subjectivities. But it also tracks how representations of U.S. imperialism provided resources for U.S. subjects to adjust affectively to new neoliberal dislocations and temporalities. Chapter 1 contends that sex radical memoirs by Kate Millet, Joan Nestle, Cherríe Moraga, and Samuel Delaney offered a vision of sexual solidarity politics that reinforced neoliberal arguments favoring economic privatization and apolitical citizenship. Chapters 2 and 3 show how these movement visions of desire and intimacy extended to the Caribbean and Central America, abetting U.S. imperialist violence and neoliberal economic transformations. I argue that Paule Marshall and Audre Lorde's cultural feminist attempts to reclaim a lost Caribbean heritage helped lay the affective groundwork for Grenada's neoliberalization, then examine how Central America solidarity movement culture, including fiction and photography by Barbara Kingsolver and Susan Meiselas, similarly naturalized neoliberal logics of privacy and intimacy. The second half of the dissertation turns to literary and popular culture, demonstrating how images and sounds of U.S. imperialism registered and soothed anxieties over new neoliberal economic conditions. Chapter 4 asserts that creative writing program fiction by Robert Olen Butler, Tobias Wolff, and Lorrie Moore mobilized the figure of the Vietnam veteran to offer readers a model for managing the volatility of post-Fordist capitalism. Chapter 5 contends that the pop/rock love-gone-wrong songs that scored the U.S. invasion of Panama offered a new genre of explanation for U.S. imperialism in the neoliberal age.