Galen Watts
Addiction, Spirituality and the Search for Meaning

In Canada, addiction is generally considered a medical condition, the result of various neurological, physiological and environmental factors. Yet Twelve Step fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) propose that addiction is, intrinsically, spiritual in nature. Many AA members in recovery call themselves “spiritual but not religious” (SBNR), explicitly rejecting institutional religion while embracing “spirituality.” What precisely do these individuals mean when they self-identify as SBNR? And what might we learn about addiction, as a lived experience, from their doing so? Drawing from qualitative data collected from semi-structured interviews with millennials who self-identify as SBNR, and using philosopher Charles Taylor’s (2007) conception of the malaise of modernity as a theoretical starting point I seek to illuminate the nature of “spirituality” as it relates to addiction. I contend that in advanced industrial societies, addiction can be viewed as an existential condition tied to modernity—the result of a hedonic-cum-materialist outlook taken to its logical conclusion. Thus the experience of addiction provides insight into the trappings of modernity and its inability to provide an over-arching sense of meaning to individuals’ lives, while to be SBNR implies, among other things, a personal rebellion against the hegemony of materialism.

Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of Harvard UP, 2007. Print.

Galen Watts is currently in the 2nd year of his Masters in the Cultural Studies Graduate Program at Queen’s University. He has a broad and diverse range of academic interests. Currently, his research could be classified as convening at the intersection of political philosophy, religious studies, and cultural theory. For his Masters, he investigated the nature of contemporary spirituality as well as its social and political implications. Specifically, he sought to articulate and analyze how Canadian millennials (ages 18-34) who self-identify as ‘spiritual but not religious’ conceptualize the relationship between their individual spirituality and their commitments, or lack thereof, to a number of social justice issues.


Ian Cuthbertson
The Promise of Enchantment

By most accounts, the modern world is disenchanted. According to this view, individuals prefer rational and scientific explanations to magical ones and enchantment, in so far as it persists in modernity, is merely a primitive survival from our prescientific past. Yet recently scholars have begun to describe the apparent reenchantment of the world (cf. Bennett 2001; Partridge 2005; Landy and Saler 2009). Rather than view modernity as disenchanted, these scholars present modernity as imbued with fully secular and rational opportunities for wonder, mystery and awe. In this paper I argue that descriptions of the world as reenchanted take the disenchantment of the world for granted and work, therefore, to disenchant. Drawing on recent work in ritual studies, I argue that modernity is already and always has been enchanted and describe how valuing a subjunctive ‘what-if’ approach to reality promises to disrupt modern alienation and encourage shared attempts at reimagining possible desired futures.

Ian is a Cultural Studies Ph.D. Candidate whose thesis investigates the ways dominant conceptualizations of modernity as disenchanted render suprarational beliefs and behaviours invisible to contemporary scholarship.


Sebastiaan Boersma
Queerness and the Dialectic at a Standstill: Reading at the Intersection of Redemption and Reparation

Recent discussions of poetics and politics in North American cultural studies have been framed by the keywords “affect” and “performativity.” This essay argues that queer theory’s transposition of “affect” and “performativity” to the rhetorical and aesthetic registers of the body have engendered dialectical readings of cultural production in ways that challenge what Fredric Jameson called the impossible task of the dialectical materialist under late capitalism: namely, to think culture as both positive and negative, in a single thought. In particular, I look at the melancholic position of materialist criticism and its emotional affinity with the depressive position of queer reading practices of reparation. My aim is to think the reparative reading practices, often associated with queer affect theory, together with dialectical materialist thought, as a way to reconsider the affective motivations of Marxist cultural criticism. I turn to the work of the poet Lisa Roberston to tell the story of how recent critical and poetic projects turn to love under late capitalism to suggest that negative affects are not and ought not to be the sole affective motivation for dialectical reading. If, as Sianne Ngai has argued, there is a naturalized relationship between negative affects and “negative thinking” (shorthand for ideology critique in the dialectical tradition), then my essay suggests that we see this relationship as, in the words of Eve Sedgwick, a possibility among other possibilities (9). I would like to read “love” in terms of what Christopher Nealon calls “polemical affection” (580). That is to say, how love becomes dialectical, and the queer story of how negation becomes tender.

Works Cited

Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991; 2012. Print.
Nealon, Christopher. “Camp Messianism, Or, the Hopes of Poetry in Late Late Capitalism.” American Literature 76.3 (2004): 579602. Print.
Ngai, Sianne. Ugly Feelings. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004. Print.
Robertson, Lisa, et al. Cinema of the Present. First ed. New York: Coach House Books, 2014. Print.
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky, and Adam Frank. Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003. Print.

Sebastiaan Boersma is an MA student in English at UBC. His work can be located at the intersection of critical theory, poetry, and performance. He is currently at work on a project that traces the rhetorical figure of “need” across anticolonial and queer writing as an allegorical form of reading. His project recasts reading as a “real sensuous activity” that comes to challenge what counts as an “aesthetic education” in the Kantian critical tradition.