Dr Ben Gook is an Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung postdoctoral fellow in social and cultural theory at Humboldt University in Berlin, hosted by Prof. Joseph Vogl. Ben focuses on affect and critical theory, specifically negative affects in contemporary life.Supported by research funding from the Humboldt Stiftung, Ben is currently researching “disaffection” and “the disaffected” as major socio-cultural features in western democracies. The Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 heralded western capitalism’s triumphalist phase. et since then, malaise has proliferated in capitalist societies amidst various crises. Social life has fractured, generating feelings of anxiety, insecurity and powerlessness. The “disaffected voter” has embodied distrustful democratic polities, and the “disaffected youth” has come to the fore in riots and movements. This project foregrounds “the disaffected” as a generalised but complicated figure in this period. It focuses on people who, while often profoundly discontented, feel they cannot effect lasting change. This produces forms of withdrawal including visible manifestations of discontent typically considered active (street movements, cultural production) as well as private retreats from contestation that are considered passive (anxiety, depression, boredom, apathy). Disaffection betrays a feeling of distance, a response to shifts that have routinely thwarted full participation. By returning to 1989, this project will take a novel, longer view of the contemporary moment, beyond the typical Anglophone focus on the last decade’s response to the financial crisis. The project seeks to import aspects of German debates to English discussion and vice versa.
In August 2014, Ben completed a cross-faculty PhD at the University of Melbourne in Social Theory and Cultural Studies. This thesis was awarded the biannual Jean Martin Award from The Australian Sociologic