Creating responsible subjects: the role of mediated affective encounters

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Why do people willingly bestow upon themselves the responsibility to tackle social problems such as poverty? Consumer research has provided valuable insight into how individuals are created as responsible subjects but has yet to account for the crucial role of affective dynamics in subject formation. We draw upon affect theorizing and nascent research on ‘affective governmentality’ in organization and policy studies to theorize the formation of responsible subjects via affective encounters (i.e., consumption encounters through which consumers’ capacities to affect and to be affected change), and to explore how affective encounters are mediated downstream. Through a qualitative investigation of the online microloan market, we explain how market intermediaries contribute to the creation of affective-entrepreneurial subjects who willingly supply interest-free loans to the disadvantaged. The intermediaries accomplish this by nurturing and dramatizing a structure of feeling that subtends affective encounters, and by deploying apparatuses of affirmation and relatability to target and intervene into affective encounters. In addition to illuminating the affective dynamics involved in consumer responsibilization and subject formation more broadly, our study also facilitates critical reflection on the subject-formative power of consumer experiences and experiential marketing, and carries important implications for research on charitable giving, and critical thinking on microcredit.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberucab019
Pages (from-to)492-512
JournalJournal of Consumer Research
Issue number3
Early online date4 Aug 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Aug 2021


  • affect
  • affective encounters
  • consumer responsibilization
  • consumer subjectivity
  • neoliberal governance
  • subject formation


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