Lauren Berlant’s work has focused on the affective components of social proximity in the U.S. from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century: in particular, their relation to juridical citizenship; radical, normative, and ambivalent modes of social belonging; and to practices of intimacy as they absorb and throw their creative weight against legal, normative, and fantasmatic forces. Social and aesthetic refusals to reproduce racist, misogynist, class and heteronormative forms of life are also central to this work. Politically-related rhetorics of love and sentimentality too. Psychoanalytic, aesthetic, political, and ethnographic ways of processing structures and encounters also converge in writing about and toward heterotopian infrastructures.
Why and how do people stay attached to fantasies of a life that are also wearing them out? How is it possible to unlearn visceral responses to what appears to threaten comfort and freedom? How to use the joys of attachment to make sustainable alter-worlds in the present that involve both critical judgment and an aversion to knee-jerk negativity? In these scenes of relation, state, juridical, and institutional practices tangle with more informal social conventions and movements. The work argues that trauma, injury, and the vitalizing social comedy of getting through things together are not exceptions to the ordinary but the disturbance we’re inside of as we make, and move through, worlds.
- “Humorlessness (Three Monologues and a Hairpiece),” Critical Inquiry 43, 2 (Winter 2017): 305-340.
- Comedy, an Issue. Edited with Sianne Ngai. Critical Inquiry 43, 2 (Winter 2017).
- The Hundreds. Written with Kathleen Stewart. Duke University Press, 2017.
- Cruel Optimism. Duke University Press, 2011. [2011 René Wellek Prize, American Comparative Literature Association].