Review of International Studies

Research Article

‘I wasn't angry, because I couldn't believe it was happening’: Affect and discourse in responses to 9/111



While the recent interest in affects and emotions in world politics is encouraging, the crucial relationships between affect, emotion, and discourse have remained largely under-examined. This article offers a framework for understanding the relations between affect and discourse by drawing upon the theories of Jacques Lacan. Lacan conceptualises affect as an experience which lies beyond the realm of discourse, yet nevertheless has an effect upon discourse. Emotion results when affects are articulated within discourse as recognisable signifiers. In addition, Lacanian theory conceptualises affect and discourse as overlapping yet not as coextensive, allowing analyses to theoretically distinguish between discourses which become sites of affective investment for audiences and those that do not. Thus, analysing the mutual infusion of affect and discourse can shed light on why some discourses are more politically efficacious than others. The empirical import of these ideas is offered in an analysis of American affective reactions to 11 September 2001.

(Online publication September 01 2011)

Ty Solomon is currently Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. His research interests include international relations theory, American foreign policy, critical security studies, and contemporary political theory. He has previously published in Millennium: Journal of International Studies and Political Studies Review.


1 Quote cited in Jack Holland, ‘From September 11th, 2001 to 9/11: From Void to Crisis’, International Political Sociology, 3:3 (2009), p. 179 [OpenURL Query Data]  [Google Scholar].

* Many thanks to Badredine Arfi, Ido Oren, Aida Hozic, Terry Harpold, and Les Thiele for their helpful suggestions on various drafts of this article. Also, special thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their insightful and constructive comments, and to the editors.