Campos Medina, L., Silva Roquefort, R., & Gaete Reyes, M. (2017). El rol de las emociones y los afectos en la producción del hábitat y el territorio. Revista INVI, 32(91), 9-21. Como citar este artículo
Campos Medina, Silva Roquefort, and Gaete Reyes: The role of emotions and affects in the production of habitat and territory


In the call for submissions for this special issue, we said that Latin American territorial and urban studies have not investigated with sufficient clarity and strength the question of the role played by emotions and affects in the different phenomena that they study. As opposed to related fields, -like human geography (Davidson, Bondi, & Smith, 2007; Lindón, 2009 & 2012; Guinard & Tratnjek, 2016; Smith et al., 2009) -, in this field the question is more incipient, even rudimentary. Our call for submissions was therefore intended to put this double condition -incipient and rudimentary- to the test. We wanted to gauge the interest generated by the topic and discover the fields where this question of emotion and affects was already unfolding, the theoretical frameworks invoked, and the methodological approaches in use (Aguilar & Soto, 2013; Albornoz, 2016; Deluermoz et al., 2013; Gregg & Seigtworth, 2010).

The outcome was auspicious: more than forty articles, written by authors from a variety of Spanish-speaking countries, and which addressed diverse topics and questioned the influence of affects and emotions on the form and texture taken on by each phenomenon under study. This is a promising picture, or, in line with Spinoza's theory of affects (Spinoza, 1980; Vigotsky, 2010), a picture that prompts us to explore in greater depth the way in which we have questioned the role played by emotions and affects in the production of habitat and territory. Let's look at this picture in more detail.

The collection of articles in this special issue of Revista INVI shows us that the question of affects and emotions has a wide range within habitat and territory studies. It is put into play in the analysis of diverse phenomena: in the study of place attachment and the meaning of inhabited space, but also in struggles over heritage, territorial stigmatization, informality, urban-rural migrations and the government of others.

Additionally, the seven-article corpus shows that the use of the affect and emotion perspective enables the construction of different objects of research. Indeed, the question is not just about thematic diversity, but also about ways of problematizing that seek to “deconstruct” or “unpack” processes that are taken for granted. The reference to place attachment is a good example: attachment, rooting, and belonging are key pieces in the “language game” of habitat and territory studies. However, despite being common notions for architects, geographers, urban planners, etc., they are not always questioned to unearth their precise meaning. The affects approach manages to scrutinize and unveil the role that different elements play in the production of attachment, rooting and belonging. This is explicitly the case in the article by Berroeta, Pinto de Carvalho, Di Masso and Ossul and the article by Aubán. And in different ways, this is the case in the texts by Colin, Hueliñir and Zunino, and Skewes, Trujillo and Guerra. All of these texts are found in this issue.

In the field of habitat and territory studies, the affects approach works with a microscopic focus: it seeks to offer us the subtle texture of certain processes, illuminating their subjective, socio-cultural and socio-material aspects. In a way, it reveals the aspects that make up the hidden face of the processes typically examined by urban studies. But this suggests a limitation: this approach yields results on one scale only -the micro- without being able to rise to the meso or the macro. As opposed to other fields of research, which promote an affective treatment of the macro-scale, as suggested by Lordon’s (2013) proposed “structuralism of passions” in the field of economics or politics, here the approach is useful on the micro-level.

Concentration on the micro-scale, however, does not mean certain conceptual frameworks are privileged over others. In fact, in this regard, the articles in this special issue show significant eclecticism and variety. There is not affinity or recurrence between the question of affects and the theories that are discussed, but rather there is a dialogue based on the interpretive relevance of the concepts and theories. This is of course supported by the disciplinary diversity of the authors in the issue, and this is indicative of another element: the transversality of the affects approach across the disciplines that feed into territory and habitat studies. This issue contains geographers, anthropologists, sociologists, and more.

Finally, the articles selected show the variety of methodological approaches that can be used in the study of affects and emotions. These include ethnography, interviews, focus groups, surveys, statistical analysis, and even the analysis of genealogical documents. The diversity of opinions thus becomes a new incentive for research on this topic, insofar as it shows that the subject is not restricted to certain types of approaches -such as that, for example, of ethnographers distrustful of representation and discourse-, but rather that it requires the creative articulation of information production and data analysis techniques. In this regard, the diversity of methodological options acts as a call for “investigative imagination,” paraphrasing Charles Wright Mills (Mills, 1959; Back & Puwar, 2012).

Thus we have before us a set of articles that shows: i) the versatility of the affects approach, as it applies to a spectrum of varied phenomena; ii) the theoretical relevance of this approach, insofar as it allows the phenomena to be viewed from different angles; iii) its micro-level relevance, revealing less conventional dimensions; iv) its conceptual pluralism, given its dialogue with diverse traditions of thought and disciplines and; v) finally, its methodological adaptability. Below, we will look at the salient features of the articles included in this special issue in some of these dimensions.

The first article is “Bring the forest to your homes. Transformations of ways of signifying inhabited space,” by the authors Skewes, Trujillo and Guerra. It shows us how changes in productive activities affect the form and meaning of habitat and territory, but with a particular awareness of the role played by materialities and non-human agencies. In this sense, the text works as a reminder that our affective scales are in constant transformation and are not unrelated to modifications in the predominant modes of production. Moreover, the authors state that the future and sustainability of these changes depend on the capacity of the inhabitants to reorganize the forms of emotional attachment to the environment and produce habitat. Seen this way, habitat emerges as an entity of variable geometry and in variation; an entity populated by more actors than usually receive the label of inhabitants, since bees and shrubs also participate in the production of home. Thus the article acts as an invitation to renew the ontologies and epistemes that govern -almost always surreptitiously- the production of our objects of research in the field of territorial and habitat studies.

“Dignity in the margins. Affective approaches to the informal city,” the article by Mónica Aubán, is strongly persuasive. The author begins by explaining, precisely and without stridency, the affect theory in the lineage of Spinoza, Deleuze and Braidotti, to then show the relevance that this theory has in the approach to contemporary architectural practice, insofar as it unveils aspects specific to the subjectivity of the inhabitants of neglected territories. According to Aubán, architecture has made significant advances in working with informal expressions of habitat. These include a broadened notion of territoriality, which enables the integration of more actors in the production of habitat, as well as a consideration of questions such as feelings of belonging, identification with place and reclaiming of the dignity of the inhabitants. Addressing these elements, which are clearly linked to the affective plane, is not only appropriate, but also, if intensified, would bring important benefits to architectural practice and would enable a reversal of the negative image that has predominated in the treatment of the informal city.

In the third article, “Nostalgia in urban production: The defense of neighborhoods in Santiago, Chile,” the argumentative procedure Clément Colin deploys is clear and consistent: nostalgia is an emotion, a discourse and a practice that participates in the production of the urban environment. It is not a mental state, but rather a socio-cultural construction that is used as a tool of symbolic appropriation of space and which enables the protection of the material dimensions of the neighborhood. The article aims to show us how the city’s current process of neoliberal transformation is experienced by its inhabitants, particularly from the point of view of those who resent and resist it. By showing us the role that nostalgia plays as the engine of this resistance, Colin suggests that emotions are not reflexive or reactive phenomena but rather have the power to catalyze and channel productive action: to defend the space that allows us to think about ourselves, stop the advance of real estate, but also constitute a collective identity.

In their text “Place attachment: a psycho-environmental approach to affective attachment to the environment in residential habitat reconstruction processes” the authors Berroeta, Pinto de Carvalho, Di Masso and Ossul precisely map how the notion of place attachment has been conceptualized in environmental psychology. The proposal identifies three theoretical perspectives that place a specific emphasis on, first, individual emotional affinity for places, second, the recognition of the production of social meanings from which the affective attachments to place develop, and third, the exploration of the material practices through which affect for place is created and experienced. The cartography they offer is extremely valuable, not only to account for the forms and boundaries of these conceptual continents, but also because it suggests a narrative of progressive deepening going from the individual to the group, from the intangible to the material, and from the representational to the practical. In addition, the proposal becomes even more auspicious by virtue of the dialogue established with empirical information from three local contexts affected by socio-natural disasters. This information was generated by means of varied techniques, including, to the surprise of some, statistical analysis.

The fifth text of this special issue, “Mobility, utopias and hybrid places in the Southern Chilean Andes,” by the authors Huiliñir-Curío and Zunino, begins by reminding us that “the word emotion, from the Latin emotio, comes from the verb emovere, which means ‘to withdraw, to relocate from a place, to move.’” It then analyzes the utopian migration that constitutes in itself a sort of “scaled” exemplification of the word emotion: no longer at the level of movement of the body as a result of an element that affects it, but rather at the level of the displacement over a distance in space as a product of affects that are ascribed to, and are found crystallized within, a place. According to the authors, the cases analyzed, which are located in Southern Chile, offer a counterpoint to the homogenizing tendency of the modern rational project.

Ginga’s and Brizuela’s submission, “Scenographic initiatives in Rosario: cool as a technology for governing urban subjectivities,” begins using the metaphor of scenography to suggest that a set of public-private initiatives implemented in the city of Rosario, Argentina, aim to show a partial and restricted version of the city. This version highlights certain “cool” attributes but has little to do with the city’s dynamics and its inhabitants’ life experience. However, this partial, “scenographic” version aims to become a device that guides the behavior of the inhabitants, that is, a technology to govern subjectivity. By showing us the mechanics behind this operation, the authors emphasize the importance of desire as an impeller of human activity and as a tool of revitalization of current capitalism, particularly in its version of enjoyment.

Finally, Alfredo Santillán’s text “Feelings in the face of territorial stigmatization” addresses the feelings generated by territorial stigmatization in the city of Quito, highlighting the importance of the imaginary dimension in that process. The author shows us how the emotions of malaise and anger in the face of humiliation are reoriented toward demythification practices that openly dispute the content of injurious prejudices towards the “south” of the city, reclaiming the positive attributes of the people living in this urban sector. The analytical procedure used reveals the heuristic potential of an intensive work with a limited corpus: the author takes the language of the inhabitants seriously, dissecting the different layers of meaning and showing their relevance in the emotions and affects approach.

As evidenced, the seven articles that make up this special issue constitute a multicolored sample of the different approaches and uses made of the affect and emotion perspective. Apart from proposing novel readings of their respective subjects, these texts put forth a series of questions aimed at promoting deeper investigation of the issues they cover. The seven articles all imply the need to continue with the analytical efforts each of them has made. All of the above highlights the relevance of the question of the implications of writing about emotion.

Indeed, writing about emotions is an attempt to make theoretically visible -if we may be permitted the pleonasm -a component of habitat production and territory that seems to have been taken for granted. Writing about emotions is, in a sense, a way of giving a name to the traction that unites and revitalizes things, places and people (Ahmed, 2004). It is a way of enunciating absences, those that take the form of memories, past experiences, loved ones that have gone... these pasts that are present, these absences that populate our daily life, but rarely give us the time to name (Stewart, 2007).

Writing about emotions is, moreover, a gesture that recognizes that the way our world is woven is finer and more tangled, and at the same time, and as paradoxical as it sounds, more volatile and denser than what our usual conceptual tools allow us to see. In this sense, it is a form of writing that calls for the renewal of paradigms and the imagining of possibilities (Knudsen & Stage, 2015).

We hope that the landscape sketched out in this issue’s seven articles will allow Revista INVI readers to not only get an idea of the magnitude of current research on the role played by emotions and affects in the production of habitat and territory, but will also serve as a catalyst to inspire research, and as a call to sharpen our ears (Back, 2007), to refine our gaze and thus to refresh urban, territorial and habitat studies.

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