PUB: "Mad Futures: Affect/Theory/Violence"

Tanja Aho's picture

We are delighted to announce the publication of our special forum "Mad Futures: Affect/Theory/Violence" in American Quarterly, Volume 69, Number 2, June 2017, pp. 291-302 (edited by Tanja Aho, Liat Ben-Moshe, and Leon Hilton).

This forum traces its origins to a roundtable, "Affect Theory Meets Mad Studies," that took place at the 2015 American Studies Association conference, one of the first panels to be sponsored by the ASA's then newly reconstituted Critical Disability Studies Caucus (CDSC). In responding to the ASA's notably "affective" orientation within its recent conference themes—from the "pleasure and pain" of 2014 to the "misery" of 2015—members of the CDSC felt the need to address the often-unmarked ableist potential of such keywords, which have too often led to the centering of privileged affective states. With this panel the caucus sought "to trouble the ways that mental illness is theorized and employed without consideration for the lived reality of an ableist and sanist society" (as noted in the original panel description). Since affective registers are distributed unevenly among those who bear them, both the panel and this subsequent forum emphasize the situational differences of affect under racial capitalist settler colonialism. That year's ASA conference's location in Toronto, Canada—known internationally as a hub of antipsychiatry and mad activism / mad studies work—further confirmed the importance of centering hemispheric and transnational perspectives that could invite critical engagements with the differential developments of mad studies and antipsychiatry activism, which has until recently been quite pronounced in Canada and rather more lacking in the US academy.

More specifically, contributors to this forum address madness, mental illness, and psychiatric disability by engaging with the wider, cross-disciplinary attention to the politics of affect and emotion that has surfaced over the past several decades. In light of affect theory's ongoing importance within the far-reaching theoretical challenges to models of liberal subjectivity, settler colonial sociality, and racial capitalist knowledge production that have defined American studies scholarship in recent years, this forum offers urgent engagements with (and at times critiques of) discrete traditions and genealogies of affect theory by insisting on the necessity of critical disability and mad studies perspectives to these debates.

Table of contents:

  • "Mad Futures: Affect/Theory/Violence" by Tanja Aho, Liat Ben-Moshe, and Leon Hilton (291-302)
  • "Mad Is a Place; or, the Slave Ship Tows the Ship of Fools" by La Marr Jurelle Bruce (303-308)
  • "Quagmires of Affect: Madness, Labor, Whiteness, and Ideological Disavowal" by Rachel Gorman (309-313)
  • "Queer History, Mad History, and the Politics of Health" by Regina Kunzel (315-319)
  • "On Affect Theory's Hidden Histories: Toward a Technological Genealogy" by Jasper J. Verlinden (321-326)
  • "Mad Data: Between Symptom and Experience" by Zahari Richter (327-331)
  • "Turning Mad Knowledge into Affective Labor: The Case of the Peer Support Worker" by Jijian Voronka (333-338)
  • "Agitation and Sudden Death: Containing Black Detainee Affect" by Louise Tam (339-345)

The forum can be accessed via Jstor and other academic databases ( For those who would like a copy but cannot access these databases, contact one of the editors for PDFs and/or check out excerpts here: and


Content warning: academic language, theory heavy, numerous mentions of violence (including racism, ableism, sanism, colonialism, homophobia, slavery, DSM, deportation and more).