This review article approaches the turn to affect theory as diagnostic of broader currents in cultural anthropology. This is a time of increased curiosity within the subfield. It is also a time of increased anxiety, as researchers feel mounting pressure to make a case for the empirical value of what they do. Affect theory seems to offer cultural anthropologists a way of getting to the bottom of things: to the forces that compel, attract, and provoke. And yet what affect theory is offering cultural anthropologists may be less an account of how the world works than a new awareness of the premises that guide their research. I base these observations on a discussion of recent ethnographies that deploy affect theory in the study of labor, governance, and animal–human relations. I conclude with an assessment of the risks and opportunities associated with the adoption of theoretical models from other fields.


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