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Affect and History in Ninotchka Rosca’s

State of War


time and place that differ from those of liberal-capitalist societies,

Berlant’s suggestion that once crisis becomes part of the everyday

lived experience, people will adapt themselves and improvise

different strategies of living in the moment is quite relevant to the

present study. With its extensive delineation of Spanish

colonization, American imperial conquest, Japanese invasion, and

Marcos’ totalitarian reign serving as the historical backdrops to the

everyday lives of the characters to which they respond affectively,

State of War

can be seen as a historical novel marked by an

affective epistemology. Rosca’s understanding of the “state of war”

includes both the violence of warfare and a condition of crisis in

the ordinary induced by the intrusion of the public into the private

lives of the characters. In the novel, the present of history is

saturated with crises produced in the intersection of the public and

the private. The public events/history of the nation


colonialism, changes of rules, institutional violence

invade and

reshape the characters in their everyday lives and positions them

not as national subjects but affective subjects. Here, I take national

subjects as the subjects produced by the historical narrative, which

sets as its


the discovery of a timeless truth of its national past.

The task of the national history is to recuperate the achievements

of the past, while the mission of the national subject is to secure

the continual development and prosperity of the nation based upon

a common identity and a shared sense of obligation to the nation.

By contrast, affective subjects are those who are intimately engaged

with the present of history, responding to its crisis affectively,

while in the meantime allowing that affective response to penetrate

and forge their subjectivity.

Rosca’s writing of the affective history of the everyday

disrupts the opposition between the public and the private by

highlighting the characters’ affective responses to, and corporeal

adaptation to, public events and historical changes, be they

violence, war, or changing political rules, to the extent that



of these public events becomes available to them in the