The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain In the Post-American Century

This elaboration of the theme for the 2014 American Studies Association conference was written by Lisa Duggan, Jack Halberstam, Fred Moten and Jośe Muñoz.

We need to get serious about fun, pleasure and happiness. On the way to global financial meltdown, the collapse of the housing market, the rise of the neoliberal university, the end of social justice and the solidification of racial capital, we stopped attending to our experiences of, and capacity for, joy, bliss, ecstasy. Meanwhile the owners of the administered world did all they could to monopolize (and therefore deaden) those experiences and to privatize (and therefore attenuate) that capacity. Recent ASA conferences have rightly focused on the formative historical contexts for the neoliberal present—Empire and Debt. This year we will augment that focus by considering the structures of feeling and the practices and discursive grammars that generate alternate ways of living against austerity and immiseration. Fun is a category of thinking and doing that serves as a counterweight to institutional logics that devalue academic labor and scholarly production. To feature fun as a concept, one that is intrinsically organizing and disorganizing, we call attention to the melee, the necessary turbulence of collaborative undertakings, the joys of thinking that place us beside ourselves and one another.