Cute affectivism: radical uses of the cuteness affect among activists and artists

Hasselgren, Ingeborg (2020) Cute affectivism: radical uses of the cuteness affect among activists and artists. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis approaches cuteness as an aesthetic and affective genre which inspires intense feelings of softness and kindness, as well as aggression and possessiveness. It investigates the affective properties and uses of cuteness, the embodied experiences of interacting with cute animals and objects, along with the feelings of performing cuteness. Contrary to earlier research, which tends to discard cuteness as meaningless, demeaning and manipulative, this research shows how it can also function as radical, empowering tool for political activists and artists.

Of particular interest is the political and resistive uses of cuteness, analyzed in three case studies. The ethnographic materials are collected on site in Sweden and in the UK, through a "mobile ethnography". This consists of shorter fieldworks centered on specific events; the Internet Cat Video Festival; Cuteness Overload - a feminist performance art project; and two cute-themed night clubs held at a leftist culture centre. The fieldwork emphasized multisensorial experiences of cuteness, focussed on participant observations along with interviews, focus groups and limited textual analysis.

Drawing on affect theory, it understands cuteness as a relational category, emerging between subjects and/or objects. Of specific interest is the queering properties of cuteness functioning on several levels. It inspires radically lateral relationships between oppressed subjects; helps create safe utopian spaces; and lastly, it opens up new ways to experience and relate to one’s own body.

However, cuteness, like all aesthetic genres, is subject to the politics of taste. Not all cuteness production or consumption is given the same recognition. There exits then, a hierarchy of cuteness wherein some producers/consumers, and some expressions of cuteness, are more well-regarded than others. Ultimately, the thesis concludes, cuteness has the potential for radical transformation, but as it exists on an uneven playing field, this potential cannot be readily unlocked by everyone, at least not to the same degree.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Music
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics > BH0301.A-Z Aesthetics—Special topics, A-Z > BH0301.C4 Charm
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2020 09:37
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:48

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