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Achy Affects: Feeling Our Way into Deeper Descriptions of Selfhood

Mackenzie, Caitlin (2023) Achy Affects: Feeling Our Way into Deeper Descriptions of Selfhood. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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My dissertation, titled Achy Affects: Feeling Our Way into Deeper Descriptions of Selfhood, is grounded in community outreach and positioned at the intersections of health rhetoric, trans and affect studies, and theories of epistemology. I organize my dissertation into four affects (chapters)—shame, shyness, nostalgia, and wonder—to critique the ways capitalism influences our imaginaries and, by proxy, our bodies.

I argue that capitalist logics erase possibilities for complexity to instead insist one is either legible or illegible, productive or passive, normative or pathological, healthy or unhealthy, dysphoric or euphoric, and by so doing require one overcome what hurts for what cures, whether those cures are real or not. My effort is toward de-mobilizing these binaries that structure our social literacies around our bodies, especially as we attempt to describe vulnerable experiences of embodiment. I seek to honor agency within precarity, to hold them at the same time, to express how one does not negate the other.

Inspired by harm reduction, my work at needle exchanges, but also my own queer and trans body, in these pages I ask a set of questions: how do capitalist logics make communities of people—specifically queer, trans, and drug using—spectacles of embodiment for the purpose of productive futures? How is language involved in this process? How might affect give attention to bodies (and being) without exploiting those bodies for totalized meaning? Finally, how can we cultivate alternatives to how we think about and describe embodiment?


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Mackenzie, CaitlinCEM134@pitt.educem1340000-0002-6051-1545
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHolding,
Committee MemberBeaulieu,
Committee MemberPuri,
Committee MemberWaite,
Committee MemberBickford,
Date: 6 September 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 May 2023
Approval Date: 6 September 2023
Submission Date: 7 April 2023
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 216
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Health equity, capitalism, trans, queer, affect, feelings, harm reduction, drug use, marginalization, rhetoric
Date Deposited: 06 Sep 2023 17:05
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2023 17:05


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