L.O.V.E, and Other Disaffections

L.O.V.E, and Other Disaffections
4 November 2017, 9.00am - 7.00pm
Conference / Symposium
Bloomsbury Room, G35, Ground Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Keynote speaker: Dr Amaleena Damlé (University of Cambridge)

The heart is not broken, in the sense that it does not exist before the break. But it is the break itself that makes the heart. The heart is not an organ, and neither is it a faculty. It is: that I is broken and traversed by the other where its presence is most intimate and its life most open. The beating of the heart – rhythm of the partition of being, syncope of the sharing of singularity – cuts across presence, life, consciousness. That is why thinking – which is nothing other than the weighing or testing of the limits, the ends, of presence, of life, of consciousness – thinking itself is love.”

Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community

The subject of love is not new to critical debate. In Aristophanes’ myth in Plato’s Symposium, love is the striving to return to a prior wholeness from which we have been severed. In Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, love is a virtue that, alongside faith and hope, allows for human participation in divinity. In Schopenhauer’s “The Metaphysics of Sexual Love” in The World as Will and Representation, love derives from the urge to procreate shared by all human beings, and is ideally expressed as the union between a man and a woman who, complimentary opposites of each other, combine to form a neutral product. For Spinoza in The Ethics, love is the affect of joy focused on the particular object that we believe brings us this joy. For Freud, taking inspiration for his psychoanalytic conception of love from Aristophanes’ myth in Plato’s Symposium, love is a compulsion to re-merge with the lost primordial maternal body. Jean-Luc Nancy theorizes love in opposition to wholeness, arguing that to love is to shatter the sanctity of the enclosed self, exceeding it and opening it up to alterity. 

What’s love got to do with it? The field of love studies has enjoyed a reinvigoration in recent years, whilst love has been increasingly emphasized as a political necessity. Campaigns surrounding the migrant crisis, as well as attempts to halt the rise of fascism in the Western world, for example Hilary Clinton’s ultimately defeated #LoveTrumpsHate campaign, propose love  as political healing, advocating open borders, tolerance and equality. Scholars from diverse disciplines are again approaching the question of how to define love, and how to engage with it from a critical perspective. What is the psychology of love? Are some people incapable of love, and is the inability to feel love a definable pathology? What is the neurology of love: can love be reduced to a finite set of chemical and synaptic impulses in response to a suitable object? What would an effective politics of love look like? What are -philias and are they constructed or are they essential? What does the erotic have to do with love? What does it mean to love in a digital age, or in an age of pornography and disaffection? Is there a cure for love? How is love gendered? How is love colonized, reappropriated and even weaponized in socio-political economies? What would a post-love world look like, has it already been imagined, or is it already here? 


Kremena Velinova
020 7664 4884