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Mariana Aboim

PhD Work

Affective Assemblages

Feminist, queer and decolonial practices have been providing discourses engaging in hopeful futurities, and situating critiques to knowledge systems hindering social justice through heteropatriarchic frameworks perpetuated by Western thought (Macharia: 2019; Munoz: 2009).

Through my practice based research I develop the concept affective assemblages to rethink the ways immaterial factors enable agential capacities individually and collectively. I suggest that hopeful futurities are momentarily materialised in the unfolding of street protests and activism. I do this by using speculative fiction within a fine art methodological framework, focusing on writing methods that allow an articulation of the immateriality of ‘affect’ within affective assemblages, and attending to ‘what our bodies sense, but cannot make sense of [yet]’.

I situate the premises under which it is possible to research how agency can be nonconsciously whet through the sensorial by using analytical frameworks put forward within raw materialism (da Silva: 2014, 2015, 2018), nonconscious cognition (Hayles: 2017, 2019), and queer aesthetics (Campt: 2017; Musser: 2014, 2018). I further draw on science and speculative fiction work addressing non linear and a-temporalities, inherited memories and embodiments of knowledge (Delany: 1973 (1966); Gumbs: 2018, 2020; Russ: 1980, 1985); realities in which non-human and human experiences are considered through their intra-activity (Okorafor: 2014; Tiptree Jr.: 1985); and material/immaterial simultaneity of sensational and emotional interplays (Budge: 2019; Hedva: 2018); all of which being part and parcel of how futures unfold.

I foreground an alternative to pre-established perceptions of embodiment using an arts based inquiry into nonconscious semiosis of affect. My research focuses on forms of care and solidarity that are nonconsciously propelled, unpredictable, and immeasurable. As such, I draw on literary and theoretical bases that acknowledge Western heteropatriarchic onto-epistemes, while undoing them by addressing the voids resulting from universalised ‘tools for scientific reasoning’ (Hartman: 2008; Jackson: 2020; Silva: 2018; Sharpe: 2016; Yusoff: 2018).

Drawing theory from fiction as medium of artistic research points to the ‘field elasticity’ that has long been attracting scholars from the humanities, social sciences, critical theories, among others, to the realm of the arts. However, with my practice I draw theory through fine arts as opposed to doing theory about fine art. Finally, I propose affective assemblages as a thinking framework through which to explore potential ways of knowing alternatively, and their effects on sociopolitical modes of existing otherwise.


  • PhD


    School of Arts & Humanities


    Arts & Humanities Research, 2018–2024

  • Through my writing practice I focus on regenerating what one’s body senses, but cannot make sense of: understanding what is afferred at a conscious or nonconscious level (Hayles: 2019; Kohn: 2013). I use a recorded [spoken] word component to explore cross grammar-language interplays that underline a sensorial relation to the immediacy of logic provoked by/through semantic configurations (Delany: 2009 (1978); Russ: 1995 (1973); Macharia: 2019; Musser: 2014). I conduct a photographic investigation and replay by following images that have been instigating pre-adulthood memories, remembering[s] that tie (and are triggered by) experiences of street protests to questions of embodiment before I had the language to speak of their existence: ways of dealing with cis-heteronormativity, kin beyond species, among others. Revisiting early experiences is a mediating practice between consciousness [present] and nonconscious cognition [embodied memory]. These revisiting[s] work concurrently with a textual practice that focuses on the triggering of/through nonconscious cognition, seeking a vicarious mediation of affect’s immateriality in order to articulate what at a certain time I felt, but could not understand — it is an angle through which I approach one of my research questions: how can an art/writing practice be used to research what our bodies sense, but cannot make sense of?