by Lisa Cartwright

About Lisa Cartwright

Lisa Cartwright is Professor of Visual Arts and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego, where she is also on the faculty of the Department of Communication and the Program in Critical Gender Studies. Her most recent book is Moral Spectatorship: Technologies of Voice and Affect in Postwar Representations of the Child (2008). She is coauthor, with Marita Sturken, of Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (2008). She is also the author of Screening the Body: Tracing Medicine’s Visual Culture (1995). With Paula Treichler and Constance Penley, she coedited the volume The Visible Woman: Imaging Technologies, Gender and Science (NYU Press, 1998).


“Affect,” a term understood by some to be synonymous with “feelings” and “emotion,” is associated with a set of theories that are useful for understanding somatic experiences that generate meaning outside the limits of signification and critical interpretation. The turn to theories of affect among writers including Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Frank (1995b) and Brian Massumi (1995) was provoked by a sense that cultural theory had not adequately come to terms with forms of embodied feeling experienced outside the registers of speech, signification, communication, and meaning. A major catalyst of the “affective turn” (Clough 2007) was the publication, in 1995, of two essays: Sedgwick and Frank’s “Shame in the Cybernetic Fold,” a work that introduced the writings of American experimental psychologist Silvan Tomkins to readers in literary, feminist, and queer theory; and “The Autonomy of Affect,” an essay in which Massumi expanded upon French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s use of the term “affect” in A Thousand Plateaus (1987).